Washington, D.C. (BlackNews.com) – The U.S. Dream Academy, founded in 1998, is a national after-school program that aims to break the cycle of intergenerational incarceration. Its mission is to inspire and elevate the lives of children of incarcerated parents and vulnerable young people through high performance relationships with caring adults. It seeks to maximize their potential by building dreams, perseverance, academic skills and character. The program, founded by renowned Grammy Nominated gospel singer Wintley Phipps, is currently operating in seven cities nationwide including: Houston; Baltimore, Maryland; Indianapolis, Indiana; Orlando, Florida; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Washington, D.C.
On May 8, the academy hosted its 17th annual “Power of A Dream” Gala in Washington, D.C. The event, themed “Living the Dream,” was presented by Amway in honor of the organizations 20th anniversary. The gala fundraising goal of $1 million for the 450 attending guests was exceeded when global media leader Oprah Winfrey had Mpumi Nobiva, an alumna from the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy who was being honored at the event with the DreamBlazer Award, make a surprise announcement that Winfrey would match all donations made during the gala celebration.
“Oprah Winfrey is a longtime supporter of U.S. Dream Academy, but this donation was an incredible surprise,” exclaimed said Wintley Phipps, founder and CEO of the U.S. Dream Academy. “This generous donation from Oprah and our other critical supporters, such as Amway, make our programs to serve children all over the country through our after school tutoring, mentoring and our dream building possible.”
The gala was co-hosted by popular award-winning actor, producer and director Larenz Tate – known for co-starring in Girls Trip, Power and Deuces – along with WHUR popular radio personality Triscina Grey.
This years honorees were noted as passionate advocates of mentorship, education and philanthropy, working to make a lasting impact in their respective fields, in our communities and around the world: trailblazing actress Cicely Tyson received the President’s Award; David Shapiro, CEO of MENTOR: National Mentoring Partnership, received the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award; and Mpumi Nobiva received the DreamBlazer Award.
One of the many highlights of the evening was an inspiring performance and heartfelt personal words from the iconic Tyson, who spoke words of inspiration directly to the more than 120 DreamKids and the Takoma Academy Chorale after their choir performance onstage. Tyson then led the group in an impromptu song of Jesus Loves Me, as students of the choir joined softly in with Tyson. Many of the young people were visibly moved to tears by the moment.
The evening continued with a special performance by academy founder and Grammy nominee, Wintley Phipps, the Takoma Academy Chorale and the DreamKids.
In addition, the Southwest Mentor of the Year Award was presented to three recipients this year, including; Darwin Kemp from the District of Columbia, Roosevelt Neely from Houston and Beverly Smith from Indianapolis. Dream Academy students also participated in a XS Gum Design Contest with Amway during the course of the school year. Onstage, Jim Ayres, managing director of Amway North America, and David Vanderveen, vice president for XS, Amway Global, awarded the first place prize to Kaleem Payne, a seventh grade student from the Baltimore City Dream Academy. He will receive a cash award of $2,500.00 and his design will be on every box of XS Energy GUM packaging that will be produced and distributed around the world, along with the U.S. Dream Academy.
“It was a perfect moment, having one of Oprah’s mentees from her leadership academy, make the announcement. Nobiva’s accomplishments demonstrate the power of mentoring combined with hard work and perseverance to make ‘Dreams’ come true. We were thrilled to honor Mpumi as our DreamBlazer Awardee and then to have her surprise us with this announcement, was a great way to end the evening,” said C. Diane Wallace Booker, founding Executive Director for U.S. Dream Academy.
Since 2001, the annual gala has raised more than $19 million to assist with the provision of high-quality after-school programs specifically tailored for children living in high-risk communities.
The U.S. Dream Academy 2018 Honorary Congressional Committee included: The Honorable Pete Aguilar, The Honorable Anthony Brown, The Honorable Benjamin Cardin, The Honorable Elijah Cummings, The Honorable Val Demings, The Honorable Kamala D. Harris, The Honorable Orrin G. Hatch, The Honorable Eleanor Holmes Norton, The Honorable Sheila Jackson Lee, The Honorable John P. Sarbanes and The Honorable Chris Van Hollen.