Our 35 Year History in the U.S

An impulsive move on the part of one visionary man sparked a national movement to positively impact the lives of children in low-income communities from coast to coast...

In 1981, businessman Eugene M. Lang returned to P.S. 121, the elementary school he had attended in East Harlem 50 years earlier, to address a class of graduating sixth graders. He intended to tell them, "Work hard and you'll succeed."

But on the way to the podium, P.S. 121's Principal told Lang that three-quarters of the school's students would probably never finish high school, prompting Lang to make an extraordinary impromptu change to his speech: he promised university tuition to every sixth grader who stayed in high school and graduated.

Lang told the class about being present to hear Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the 1963 March on Washington. He urged the students to dream their own dreams, and promised to do all he could to help them achieve their goals.

As he got to know his "Dreamers," Lang realised they would need more help than he could give all 61 of them on his own.

So he hired a full-time social worker as Project Coordinator and enlisted the support of a local community-based organisation to provide services and support to the children throughout the years that separated them from high school graduation, while at the same time maintaining close personal relationships with each of them.

In August 1985, after four years, all of Lang's Dreamers were still in school. He began responding to news media inquiries in the hope that others would be inspired to replicate what he had done. It worked. A front-page story in The New York Times and a segment on 60 Minutes led to widespread national attention and interest.

Thousands of inquiries began to pour in, and in early 1986 Lang organised the national "I Have a Dream"® Foundation to help launch a new generation of "I Have a Dream"® Projects. Since then, the programme has grown beyond anything Lang ever imagined.

Since then, over 200 "I Have A Dream" programs have operated in 28 states, Washington, D.C., and New Zealand, together serving over 16,000 Dreamers. At the same time, "I Have a Dream"® has freely shared its experience with others - individuals, corporations, church
and community groups and government agencies - in creating other educational support programmes that help many more thousands of disadvantaged children at the primary and secondary school levels.

And Lang's original 61 Dreamers? Of the 54 who still remain in contact with "I Have a Dream"®, more than 90% have their high school diplomas or GED certificates; and 60% went on to higher education, mostly at public four-year universities or community colleges. The first Dreamers received baccalaureate degrees from Bard and Barnard Colleges in June 1991; others subsequently graduated from Swarthmore, RPI, Hunter, Arizona and other schools. At least two-thirds of the P.S. 121 Dreamers have had two or more years of higher education, almost all hold fulfilling jobs, and those who have children vow their kids will go to university.


Our 14 Year History in New Zealand

A decade of dreaming is turning into successful reality for a group of at-risk school children.

The first "I Have a Dream" project outside of the United States was created in 2003 by Scott Gilmour, who hoped to turn around the lives of 53 children through mentoring, tailored support and guidance as they progressed through years 4 to 13 at Wesley Primary School in Auckland, New Zealand.

Mr Gilmour's inspiration was a story about the U.S based I Have a Dream foundation he found in an American newspaper in 1991 and filed away until his software company, ABC Technology, was sold to the United States giant SAS in 2002.

Mr Gilmour then approached the foundation in the US, and as a result, in 2003, New Zealander Ant Backhouse was employed as Project Coordinator and the first "I Have a Dream" project outside of the USA started up at Wesley Primary School in Mt Roskill, a low socio-economic suburb of Auckland, New Zealand.

A decade later in 2013, the first cohort of "Dreamers" made its way into universities and careers.

In fact, 80% of the children who remained in Auckland for the duration of their schooling entered tertiary education, compared to only 30% of the Comparison Group students in the year-level above them from the same founding primary school. Students had higher levels of pass rates in their National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) and more students obtained the University Entrance Qualification. 

The results were so convincing that both Gilmour and Backhouse decided not to rest on their perils. In 2014/2015 they began working on a scale-out of the I Have a Dream Charitable Trusts work to an entire geographic schooling community to showcase the best-practices of the model to New Zealand society so that in the future even more children could be helped in this way.

In 2016, as a result of their perseverance and fundraising, I Have a Dream Charitable Trust New Zealand have launched the Ngatahi Education Initiative to inspire the dreams and enable the futures of 1500 low-decile school children in the Tikipunga and Otangarei communities of Whangarei.

A Brief Timeline

Eugene Lang begins the first "I Have a Dream"® Project for students at P.S. 121 in Harlem.

Bill and Elaine Farrell of Dallas, Texas, start the first "I Have a Dream"® Project outside of New York.

The national "I Have a Dream"® Foundation is created to handle the growing number of requests for technical assistance in starting local Projects.

With the support of HUD Secretary Jack Kemp and the cooperation of the New York City Housing Authority, Jeff Gural and Gloria Jarecki begin the first "I Have a Dream"® Project based in a public housing development.

"I Have a Dream"® assists Congress and the U.S. Department of Education in crafting the GEAR UP programme, a federal replication of the "I Have a Dream"® model.

"I Have a Dream"® celebrates its 20th Anniversary. Eugene Lang and CBS/60 Minutes are honoured; Cokie Roberts serves as Master of Ceremonies and U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige serves as Conference Keynote Speaker.

Scott and Mary Gilmour start the first "I Have a Dream"® project outside of the U.S. Scott learned about IHAD while living in Portland, Oregon, for 15 years in the 80's and 90's, and carried the dream when he returned home. The IHAD Charitable Trust begins with a Year 4 class at Wesley Primary School, a Decile 1 school in Mt Roskill, Auckland, New Zealand.

Every $ helps, thank you...

Help us build the Dream…

Help us transform more lives...

Make a donation here…

Donate now

Watch Video...

Foundation North - I Have a Dream Whangarei

Watch Video...

I Have a Dream TV - Enhancing Dreams for Maori

Watch Video...

Radio Rhema - John Peachey catches up with CEO Ant Backhouse on the projects progress.

Watch Video...

Mai FM : Featuring graduate Dreamers Amelia and Ruth

Watch Video...

Jono and Ben - Radio Interview with CEO Ant Backhouse

Watch Video...

Radio Live - Made a bit of dough and giving something back

Watch Video...

TV3 CAMPBELL LIVE 2012 - A Decade Long Social Experiment

Watch Video...

TV3 THE NATION - Dreamers Academic Achievement Programme, 10 Years on

Watch Video...


Watch Video...

TEDx Auckland Presentation

Watch Video...

Documentary Video - The Power of Mentoring

Watch Video...

TV3 Sunrise Show - I have a Dream foundation turns five

Watch Video...

2008 Open Door Documentary - Part 1 of 2

Watch Video...

2008 Open Door Documentary - Part 2 of 2

Watch Video...

60 Minutes - IHAD 25th Anniversary

Watch Video...

TV3 Campbell Live - Official Opening of the Dreamer Centre

Watch Video...

2004 Open Door Documentary
View more videos