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History

It all started with a speech.

A generous yet impulsive reaction by one visionary sparked a national movement...

In 1981, businessman Eugene M. Lang returned to P.S. 121, the elementary school he had attended in New York City’s East Harlem 50 years earlier, to address a class of graduating sixth graders. When learning only 25 percent would likely graduate high school, he was shocked. He tossed his prepared speech, and instead told the children about witnessing Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. He then instilled a dream in each sixth grader by promising college tuition to all, if they stayed in school and graduated. To fulfill this promise, he immediately started to work with these young people in an effort to keep them in school so they could eventually take him up on his generous offer. As a result, over 90 percent of the original class of Dreamers graduated or received their GED, and many went on to college.

News of Mr. Lang’s unique program and its success spread. In 1987, Chris Romer heard Mr. Lang speak and was greatly inspired. He and other community leaders established CIHAD in Denver the next year. Since that time, over 600 Dreamers have been served in 13 different classes. Of those 13 classes, eight have completed high school and five classes are still in school.