(Washington, D.C.) May 27, 2016 – The U.S. Dream Academy recently celebrated their 15th Annual “Power of A Dream” Gala, themed, “Growing Dreams,” presented by title sponsor Amway. The annual black tie fundraiser was hosted on May 3, 2016 at the Washington Renaissance Hotel in Washington, D.C and benefited nationally recognized after-school programs for children of incarcerated parents and those falling behind in school. Each year, the Power of a Dream Gala attracts the support of political leaders, celebrities, corporate executives, community activists, VIPs and influencers to invest and raise awareness and further help U.S. Dream Academy programs thrive in making a difference in the lives of youth in need.
The gala was hosted by actress Tamara Tunie, from the NBC’s drama Law & Order: SVU (Special Victims Unit) and actor, Laz Alonso, co-star of NBC’s new “Mysteries of Laura” with Debra Messing. A unique and popular part of the event that fascinated guests, included a 15 foot Dream Tree on display that allowed guests and students the opportunity to write and hang a dream leaf to illustrate the evening’s theme and the possibilities of Growing Dreams.
This year’s honorees, are passionate advocates of criminal justice reform, education, politics, and passionately work to make a difference in the lives of children and families. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA.) received the Legacy Award for his tireless work for children and families, and gave a critical speech on the impact of incarceration and criminal justice reform and how its important to take care of our youth and communities. Jaime Casap, Global Education Evangelist at Google received the President’s Award for his innovative work in education, shared a message of how important it is to get your education, work harder, persevere and not let your environment define who you are.
Jarrett M. Adams, the MLK Jr. Award recipient, an advocate for criminal justice reform, received a standing ovation for his powerful speech of how he overcame being wrongfully accused of a crime, his journey of having faith, hope, dreaming and fighting for justice and how he succeeded and achieved great things in his life, despite his unfair challenges. Adams shared his story of being wrongfully convicted of sexual assault at age 17, sentenced to 28 years in a maximum security prison, fought for his own justice, and was released after serving 10 years and is now a graduate of Loyola University Chicago School of Law, Co-Founder of Life After Justice, and he also serves as a re-entry specialist.
The audience were also entertained and brought to their feet with a touching and memorable performance of "He's Got the Whole World in his Hands" with U. S. Dream Academy founder, Grammy nominee, Wintley Phipps and the Takoma Academy Chorale, along with The Dream Kids from Baltimore, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia. The 120 young students from Takoma Academy also acted as mentors to DreamKids and helped students learn new music while developing a caring relationship. In addition Susan L. Taylor, Founder, CARES Mentoring made a special appearance and shared a moment of encouragement with the Dream Kids.
A full circle moment for the evening took place that night when one of the U.S. Dream Academy Alumni, Marcus Randolph, served as a keynote speaker of the evening. His testimony gave everyone there an insight of his life journey and how if he never was a part of the U.S. Dream Academy family he would not be where he is today. He talked about how he was able to trust again due to his mentors/teachers at the Academy. Mr. Randolph truly brought the Mission and Vision of the U.S. Dream Academy to life for everyone in the room, ending an amazing evening on a powerful note of how the work truly makes a difference in young lives.
Amway has provided over a decade of support to the U.S. Dream Academy, serving six of those years as the title sponsor for the Power of A Dream gala. Additional sponsors that contributed to this year’s successful fundraiser include: Southwest Airlines, MarkerMan, Britt Worldwide, IBOAI, QTS, Mr. George Johnson, Protiviti, Matthew Family Trust, Adventist Health Systems, and Lois and Leroy Peters.
The U.S. Dream Academy has been nationally recognized and supported by notable figures, including former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Senator Orrin Hatch, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Congressmen Elijah Cummings and Chaka Fattah, and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee to name a few and such support is what makes dreams possible in young lives.