Wednesday, August 20, 2014

‘Dream’ foundation selects new project coordinator

WRHS graduate to help ‘Dreamers’ work toward college

Express Staff Writer

Wood River High School graduate Devan Annan, left, has been selected as the new project coordinator for the Idaho I Have A Dream Foundation. Shown with Annan are foundation founder and organization President Kenneth Lewis and outgoing Project Coordinator Kelly Ortego, who has accepted a teaching job with the Blaine County School District. Photo by Willy Cook

    The Idaho I Have A Dream Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children achieve their potential in education, has selected 2009 Wood River High School graduate Devan Annan as the organization’s new project coordinator.
    “Being from the valley, I felt like it was important to impact the kids that are going to be graduating in the valley,” Annan said in an interview Friday. “And it is my goal to help them move forward with their education and accomplish everything they can.”
    Annan will have 48 kids to work with. They were selected in 2013, as the entire Woodside Elementary School class of third-graders, as the foundation’s “Dreamers.” As Dreamers, the foundation has committed to helping the children with their education so they can graduate from high school. Further, the foundation has promised each of them a college scholarship equivalent to tuition costs of two years of community college.
    The students will be fifth-graders this year.
    “They all know now that they have a chance to go to college,” said Idaho IHAD founder and organization President Kenneth Lewis.
    Nationally, the I Have A Dream program is more than 30 years old and has helped thousands of lower-income students across the United States obtain college educations.
    The I Have A Dream Foundation-Idaho, based in Blaine County, is the first IHAD program in the state.
    As the new project coordinator, Annan, who is bilingual and graduated from the University of Montana last spring with a major in elementary education and minors in Spanish and Spanish teaching, will work with each of the 48 Dreamers to help them achieve academically. That requires getting to know each Dreamer and their families, helping them during school and after hours with their classroom work, organizing outside-school events and field trips to help with social enrichment, and serving as a mentor and role model.
    Annan replaces Kelly Ortego, who served as the foundation’s first project coordinator but has now accepted a job with the Blaine County School District as a fourth-grade teacher at Woodside Elementary School. Woodside is being renamed Alturas Elementary School and will become at the beginning of this school year a Dual Immersion magnet school for studies in both English and Spanish.
    Ortego said Friday that it was a hard decision to leave the I Have A Dream Foundation.
    “Just for personal reasons, I decided to take the position, but I’ll still be a strong supporter of the I Have A Dream Foundation,” Ortego said.
    Before leaving the foundation, Ortego prepared a final report detailing the achievements of the program in its first year. She explained in the report how the project coordinator spends about three hours every school day in the classroom with students, tutors them along with teachers, paraprofessionals and volunteers in their studies, and works with school staff to keep track of academic progress.
    With the extra assistance, Ortego reported that “all of the 48 Dreamers showed improvement on their reading and math scores from the beginning to the end of the school year.” She reported that the average growth rate for the Dreamers was 15 percent in reading and 14 percent in math.
    In her report, Ortego provided an example of one student who was having trouble with her studies and “showed no desire to improve her academic skills” and “did not believe she could learn to read better and had lost motivation for wanting to learn.”
    In providing extra support to the child, Ortego reported that a special relationship developed between her and the girl that helped the girl to understand her potential.
    “She now enjoys reading,” Ortego wrote. “The I Have A Dream-Idaho program, along with the amazing teachers in the Blaine County School District, has helped to change this Dreamer’s perspective about learning, about what it means to succeed and about herself.”
    Ortego said Friday that something she learned from the relationship with the girl was the importance of providing a role model that is neither a teacher nor a parent.
    “I am amazed and surprised that offering them a role model really helped open them up,” Ortego said. “I didn’t know it would be that important to them.”
Terry Smith:

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