The afternoon following the school bell is usually consumed with Internet surfing and television watching. Although it can be a much-needed break from rigorous academia, these wasted hours are not helping children — especially those at an economic disadvantage — get any closer to a goal of higher-education.
Ken and Ida Brown, sponsors of Asheville’s local “I Have a Dream” program, see this as a major issue. That’s why they started the first IHAD in North Carolina in 2006. A nationally recognized organization, IHAD relies on sponsors like the Browns to sustain a long-term mentoring program in order to guide and inspire children from low-income communities.
Today, local programs appear in 17 states, Washington, D.C., and New Zealand. And one of them is tucked inside Pisgah View Apartments in West Asheville.
Twenty-eight students, or “Dreamers,” are promised financial support for college or vocational school if they continue IHAD and graduate from high school. Originally starting with 20 Dreamers from PVA, the program has adapted to serving more children in the community. The students are committed to community service involvement, daily after-school mentoring, and even summer field trips. This may seem like a huge endeavor, but, then again, you haven’t met the IHAD team.
“Our hope is to see every one of our students go to college and acquire bachelor’s degrees in fields they love,” says Jazz Cathcart, an innovative and passionate educator. He works full-time as executive director for the Asheville IHAD. His degree is in Christian education from Montreat College, where he met Danielle Guengerich, program director. During the afternoon, the students alternate free time with homework time, spending time with volunteers from the community and nearby schools, he explains.
This fall, UNCA seniors have been volunteering with IHAD as part of the active-learning component of their honors capstone course. “I’m thrilled to be helping out as a mentor with IHAD,” says Spanish major Gillian Scruggs. “The organization not only helps students set and achieve goals, but also builds a community, bridging gaps in our culture.”
IHAD will soon make sure its 28 students are transitioning well into collegiate life, a stimulating environment we all hope they will experience.