by Josh Silberstein
For this month’s Nonprofit Spotlight, we are excited to feature the “I Have A Dream” Foundation Boulder County (IHDF) and their CEO Dr. Perla Delgado. As they share on their website “At ‘I Have A Dream’ Foundation we provide individualized social, emotional, and academic support to young people from under-resourced communities from 1st grade all the way through college, along with guaranteed tuition support. We believe that when given equal access to the resources they need to succeed, all children can ignite their innate potential and achieve their dreams.”
Dr. Perla Delgado has been the CEO for over two years and comes to IHDF with decades of leadership experience advocating for education equity and social justice. A Boulder native, she began working in the local community in high school and then later was employed by Emergency Family Assistance and Community Action Programs in Boulder. According to Dr. Delgado her inspiration for this work is that, “I grew up here. My family and I are immigrants. We immigrated from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico to Boulder, CO in the early 80s, so I would say this is the community that helped raise me and helped build my professional pathway.”
She had the opportunity to live and work outside Boulder receiving a PhD in Education from Texas State University and working at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, where she served as the Director and Principal Investigator of the College Assistance Migrant Program. When she saw the CEO role was open, she was excited to return home. “For me, coming back to my community and having the opportunity to lead a nonprofit like ‘I Have a Dream’ Foundation is an honor. I know a lot of the families and I’m a part of the community that we primarily work for and with.”
The mission of IHDF is to empower children from under-resourced communities to succeed from elementary school through college, along with post-secondary tuition assistance and career support. Their vision is a world where every child has equal access to the educational and career opportunities that will ignite their innate potential. Dr. Delgado shares, “IHDF has been in the community working with and for Dreamer Scholars for 32 years now and our mission is really centered on creating spaces where students feel empowered to succeed in school, college, and their career. How we do that is by providing academic, social, and emotional support.”
IHDF works with students along this journey and helps them to hone their skills and identify some of the challenges that they’re confronting as students. They also partner with nonprofits in the community to address the social and emotional support for the Dreamer Scholars. Dr. Delgado shares, “Our focus is really looking at the child through a holistic lens because we believe that by removing barriers and identifying the amazing skills and resiliency that the students have, we’re able to meet them where they’re at. We focus on making sure the Dreamer Scholar has an additional adult in their circle of support, an additional tool in their toolbox that will help them navigate some of their challenges and celebrate the successes that they’ll experience on their educational journey.”
91% of Dreamer Scholars identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, Person of Color) with 83% identifying as Latinx/o/a specifically. “We help a diverse group of students, and they’re all from the Boulder County area in addition to one class being housed in the Frederick and Firestone community,” shares Dr. Delgado. IHDF currently serves over 600 students.
They partner closely with the school system to identify students and work very closely with Boulder Housing Partners to identify communities who would benefit from the support systems that they have in place. As Dr. Delgado says, “Our partnership with both the school district and Boulder Housing Partners allows us to get to know the students a lot better and allows us to enter their spaces of community and build trust.” This allows for success for the Dreamer Scholar, and ultimately their families since it is the community coming together to provide that support.
In addition, in the past year and a half they added a new program that is a two-generation model which focuses support on the Dreamer Scholar parent community. They are helping parents enroll in ESL classes, GED/HSE classes, tech programs, and two and four year college programs. As Dr. Delgado shares, “We are really proud of what we call our Advancing Families Program. We’ve expanded our Dreamer Scholar model to the parents, guardians and caregivers of Dreamer Scholars in their own journey of accomplishing their hopes and dreams.”
Other programs include expanding their college and career department to include career and post-secondary coaches that help the students enroll, retain and complete their enrollment in a post-secondary program. That focus is to ensure that many of their students, who are first generation college students, have the support to navigate that college experience successfully.
“Our career coaches walk alongside them as they’re navigating these new spaces and places and provide them the additional support that they need to successfully complete their degree.” says Dr. Delgado.
Another exciting evolution for their organization is as Dr. Delgado shares, “To become a fully fledged restorative justice organization by 2023-2024. Hopefully all of us will be trained in restorative justice practices, and that includes the students and their families.”
In terms of challenges Dr. Delgado shared that there’s not enough mental health support in the community and across the county. In addition, as the cost of education rises, they have to find creative ways to be able to fundraise to help support the Dreamers through their educational journey.
IHDF also seeks volunteers. As Dr. Delgado shares, “I would say the greatest needs are Learning Partners, individuals who have the time and the commitment to help and walk alongside the Dreamer Scholar’s academic journey.” Volunteers go through an application process and you can find that here on their website. They ask that volunteers commit an hour a week for a semester and preferably a year to support dreamers. A Learning Partner is a combination of academic tutor and mentor, who listens and shares tools and strategies with the Dreamer Scholar.
For Dr. Delgado this work is personal and fundamental to helping the community to thrive. “To see parents that I grew up with and parents who know my parents and to have the opportunity to walk in this journey along with them and their students is an honor. I feel really privileged to be able to lead this organization into this next phase of the amazing growth that has happened in the 32 years that we’ve been around.”
On March 15th Dr. Delgado received the Rising Star Award from the Boulder Chamber of Commerce during their Celebration of Leadership awards ceremony.
For more information about “I Have A Dream” Foundation:
I Have A Dream Volunteer Opportunities