Frequently Asked Questions

Like its distinctive mission, the U.S. Dream Academy's program sets it apart from other afterschool and mentoring organizations.

The program starts with this principle: Beyond school, every young person we serve must spend 11 to 15 hours each week in a stimulating learning environment. One-on-one sessions with carefully matched mentors complement afterschool activities that combine academic fundamentals. The focus builds on three pillars – skill-building, character-building, and dream-building. The overall goal is to nurture the whole child while altering attitudes, enhancing self-esteem, supporting emotional and intellectual growth, and sparking dreams.

The U.S. Dream Academy was founded by Grammy-nominated gospel singer Wintley Phipps through his work with Prison Fellowship Ministries. His work with incarcerated parents identified a struggling and overlooked population: children of incarcerated parents. The vision for the U.S. Dream Academy emerged out of a desire to break the cycle of incarceration many families experience, particularly when living in high-risk communities.

If you are near one of our Dream Academy Learning Centers, we would invite you to consider becoming a mentor.

We have two forms of mentoring: one-to-one and group mentors.

  • One-to-one mentors require a one-year commitment for one hour per week.
  • Group mentors share their own unique skills, talents or interests with a 4-6 DreamKids for 6-12 sessions at the Learning Centers.

  • If you cannot commit to an entire year, we are always in need of volunteers and Ambassadors in our Centers as well. Ambassadors help recruit friends, family and associates to become mentors or volunteers at any of our Learning Centers.

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    Click here to access the application form

    You and local leaders, schools, and other organizations can build the foundation for a U.S. Dream Academy Learning Center in your community. U.S. Dream Academy Learning Centers are most successful when the following elements are in place:

    • A strong partnership with a local elementary or middle school located in a high-risk community (i.e. a neighborhoods experiencing higher than average crime, poverty and underperforming public schools).
    • Three or more rooms available in the above-mentioned elementary or middle school which includes enough space for 20 children, computers with tables and chairs, and secure space for staff to store confidential files.
    • The support of local businesses and community members who could help establish the opening of a center, raise funds, and provide dedicated volunteers and mentors.

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    The U.S. Dream Academy receives its funding from a number of sources, both public and private. The U.S. Dream Academy has applied for and received several federal government grants targeted for our unique population. In addition, over the past four years the organization has received significant gifts, including 2 million dollars from Atlantic Philanthropies, and more than 5 million dollars from the Oprah Winfrey Foundation.

    Though U.S. Dream Academy has had a successful fundraising history, the greatest impact has been made by the generous gifts of men and women all across the United States and the world. If you are interested in joining the Dream Team today, you can donate to the U.S. Dream Academy on our Donate Now page.

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    You can access news articles and video about the U.S. Dream Academy in our Newsroom.

    Stay informed when you sign up for Dream Alerts.

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    The overall goal of the U.S. Dream Academy program is the development of the whole child. Unlike after-school programs that focus solely on academics or recreation, the U.S. Dream Academy program addresses all areas of our children's lives through our three pillars: Character Building, Skill Building, and Dream Building.

    In addition, each of our students is individually matched with a mentor, an individual from the community who commits to sharing, developing, and growing with the student for an entire year.

    Part of our goal of preventing the cycle of incarceration in children is education. Whether you are dealing with the challenges of incarceration yourself or know someone who is raising a child with an incarcerated parent, our Research section can provide facts and resources that offer knowledge and hope.

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    Information about Wintley can be found on the More About Wintley page. From these pages you can read Wintley’s story, see his CD's available for a donation of $20 or $40, and find out about concert appearances and speaking engagements.

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    Wintley Phipps