Big dreams lead to nomination
A mentoring programme borne two decades ago over a bowl of cornflakes has ushered 53 disadvantaged students towards university study.
Takapuna IT entrepreneur Scott Gilmour is project sponsor of the I Have A Dream programme.
His work has seen him named a semifinalist in the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards Local Heroes category.
Mr Gilmour first read about the project in a newspaper while working in Oregon in the US.
"I was sitting down to a bowl of cornies when I spotted this half-page article and something just resonated with me."
Started by US businessman Gene Lang in 1981, I Have A Dream aims to empower kids in low-income areas to reach their academic potential.
Mr Gilmour brought the programme to New Zealand in 2003 when he recruited a class of 53 "dreamers" from low decile Welsey Primary School in Mt Roskill.
It is the first time I Have A Dream has operated outside of the US and nine years on Mr Gilmour says the evidence is clear.
"We have 25 kids going on to university study next year."
Many of the "dreamers' are of a Pacific Island background and although they do not lack the capacity for tertiary study, they lack the resources, Mr Gilmour says.
"Often their parents come to New Zealand to better their families. They discover it is not always the land of milk and honey and end up working two jobs and not having enough time for their kids."
He says flaws in the education system also stop these students from pursuing their dreams.
"Pacific Island kids are often sidelined into courses they don't necessarily want to do just to improve the school's NCEA results.
"If a kid wants to go to university, don't you dare tell them they shouldn't."
I Have A Dream works from the notion that a more educated population leads to a greater society, Mr Gilmour says.
"The more educated you are, the better your job, the more wages you earn and the more taxes you pay."
I Have A Dream staff, including project spearhead Ant Backhouse and a number of mentors, work alongside students from primary school through to university. Each student meets regularly with a mentor for guidance in both their school and home lives.
Go to ihaveadream.org.nz for more information.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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