2018 DREAM Scholars

Each year, Achieving the Dream conducts a national competition among students of ATD Network colleges to participate in a year-long experiential learning program to enhance leadership, critical thinking, and networking skills. Students are nominated by their institution and selected through a competitive national application process. A hallmark of the program is for DREAM Scholars to attend and present at ATD’s annual professional development conference, DREAM. The cohort just announced will convene in Nashville, TN in February, and will participate in the DREAM 2018 conference.

We are proud to introduce the 2018 ATD DREAM Scholars.

Dolores "Scarlett" Cortez
New Mexico

Dolores “Scarlett” Cortez, a performance poet and mixed media artist who uses the arts to bring awareness to mental illness and healthy body image advocacy, is a studio arts major at New Mexico’s Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA). She is the third of eight children. Her parents, immigrants from El Salvador and Mexico, “worked constantly to provide for my siblings and me,” according to Dolores.  While she was growing up, she was responsible for caring for her siblings: cooking for them, making sure they got to school, and doing their laundry. She said, “Inheriting responsibility at the age of nine heavily instilled the importance of education so I could provide more for them.”

Dolores never believed she would become the first woman in her family to go to college, but her goal now is to earn her bachelor’s degree and become an art therapist. She says she was “lucky enough to find the Institute of American Indian Arts,” a small, affordable, culturally diverse institution. Dolores is very proud of having developed the confidence to move more than 600 miles from home to attend IAIA. In addition to pursuing her studies, she serves as an ambassador for the institution. In that role, she says, “I have been able to represent the school that has given me the chance at an education. I am able to go into Hispanic and low-income communities and advocate for education and spread awareness on mental health that children wouldn't be getting elsewhere.”

Kenneth Glynn

Kenneth Glynn, a Lorain County Community College (LCCC) student working toward a BA in organizational leadership, has had “an uncontrollable thirst for knowledge” since he was a preschooler. As a young elementary school student, he took the initiative to improve his reading by spending the summer at the local public library. His second grade teacher helped him build confidence and “released [me] from the frustration of feeling like [I] was going to be a ‘nobody.’” Kenneth went on to become one of the top students in his vocational high school and served as vice president of an organization that dramatically increased minority enrollment in the school. Kenneth grew into a student “leading and setting examples for my peers to follow.”

Although he wanted to attend college, finances were a barrier. He joined the Army to be able to pay for his education. Kenneth wound up serving for ten years and then working for another 19 years in a steel plant before his dream of earning a degree and still becoming the first to graduate from college in my family would come true. Kenneth received an associate’s degree in business administration from LCCC in business administration, funded through the Trade Readjustment Act, after his plant closed and he was laid off.

Today, Kenneth is enrolled in LCCC’s University Partnership program, working to earn a four-year degree in organizational leadership from Cleveland State University. He says, “Obtaining this degree would allow me to give back to the population segment that has to deal with such an uneven playing ground like the one I had to deal with as a young student entering the journey to pursue a college education…I know that the challenges that I went through as a student, along with this degree, will allow me to become a mentor and inspire those that may not know how to go about getting the help and direction needed to ensure a path to success.”

Mardwina Lasseur

Mardwina Lasseur, the daughter of Haitian immigrants and a pre-nursing student at Broward College, found her passion when she was 15 and fell “head over heels in love with police procedurals” like Law & Order and Criminal Minds. Mardwina says, “Watching procedurals propelled me to fall in love with the three-pound organ that lies above our shoulders. I grew an interest in the brain and its complexities and was so fascinated with the idea that, although the human brain controls our somatic and behavioral functions, it is the organ that we understand the least out of all the organs in the human body.”

Although Mardwina first thought she needed to attend “a prestigious, private school to earn a high-paying job,” she’s found a wonderful education at Broward and says she’s happy her original plan “backfired.” Mardwina has been doing research and crafting presentations that focus on “the impact of stigmas toward individuals with mental disorders and how the childhood experiences of some well-known criminals influenced their decision-making skills in their adulthoods.”

Mardwina’s greatest accomplishment has been to present at the 2017 Florida Collegiate Honors Council on the stigmas of depression in males in the United States. “Because of my great infatuation with psychology, I aspire to become a Psychiatric Mental-Health Nurse Practitioner someday. That way, I can treat those who are unable to control their own emotions, thoughts, and actions regulated by the significant organ that lies above their shoulders.”

Jenae Parker

Jenae Parker, a human resource management major at Columbus State Community College, wants to teach resiliency and “empower others to believe in themselves.” She says, “Passion for me lives in others, how I can serve them.” This passion is also embodied in her desire to be a good role model for her daughter Journey Marie.  She says, “I often ask myself what I have done today that I would want Journey to carry on.” Jenae instills in her daughter the values of “speaking up for others and believing in those who don’t believe in themselves” through her passion for helping others.

Elda Pere
New Jersey

Bergen Community College mathematics major Elda Pere’s lives in both New Jersey and Albania have both shaped and inspired her. Elda spent her first years in New Jersey, and then moved with her family to Albania when she was ten. In Albania, Elda says she “grew enamored by the pursuit of knowledge, particularly in the fields of mathematics, physics, philosophy, literature and the visual arts.” She also worked on an aid project for villages near her town where she met two men with severe medical conditions, “deceased children, wrecked houses, no source of income, no water or food supply, and were utterly ignored by village officials. Yet the men were characterized by boundless appreciation for the aid they were given.” Elda says, “The men’s appreciation was contagious.”

Back in New Jersey, Elda “feels the need to propagate that enthusiasm, appreciation, and thankfulness on this side of the globe as well.” She ran for and won the presidency of the New Jersey chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, volunteers in activities on and off campus, and leads a STEM project at her college to create free prosthetic hands for those who need them.

Academically, Elda’s greatest passions are the liberal arts and STEM fields. She says that while both appear to be opposites, they embody human efforts to explain the world around us. “Liberal arts and STEM use different means, different methods, but in the end are tied to human creativity and curiosity.”
One of Elda’s most meaningful achievements is her development of a new kind of trigonometry based on the Fibonacci spiral instead of circles or hyperbolas that she calls “Trigonacci.” Trigonacci provides direction for Elda to move forward in her career as a researcher and mathematician and also incredible satisfaction for all she has accomplished already as a young woman in STEM.

Emery Sutherland
New Mexico

Emery Sutherland, a Network Management/IT major at Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI), is passionate about solving problems and learning from the process. He says this interest has led him to “fixing cars, household repair, playing games, and writing code. The feeling of accomplishment from solving an incredibly difficult problem is great, but I learn more about how something works in the problem-solving process.”

Emery led SIPI’s winning Swarmathon team, which participated in a national competition at the Kennedy Space Center. The competition required the team to program three NASA rovers to autonomously find, gather and collect foam cubes. Emery says, “Seeing my hard work pay off when my team won the second annual swarmathon competition held at inspired me to seek a career in autonomous research.”

Emery is Native American and grew up on a reservation where life was a struggle. He says, “My parents worked hard to feed, clothes, and provide shelter for us…I unfortunately did without basics of extra reading books, computer, electricity, and the basic necessities to thrive in my studies.”  Emery made a decision, though, “not to struggle my entire life. The way I planned to avoid this struggle was to keep learning. I was fortunate to have parents that supported my decisions to thrive in school…I will continue to educate myself and hopefully one day pass that knowledge to my community to make a promising future.”

Kien Truong

Kien Truong, a student at Portland Community College, immigrated to the US after his junior year in high school in Vietnam. He calls immigrating “one of the most transformational moments of my life,” but said it was a difficult transition with “many struggles.” Despite the challenge of learning English at the same time he was completing his high school education, Kien graduated on time, the first in his family to do so.

However, Kien says college seemed too expensive for the child of parents unable to speak English and working low-income jobs. Beyond the cost, he says, “I was also afraid because I would be the first person in my family to go to college. I did not even know what a college would look like…” With the support of his ESL teacher, Kien applied and was accepted to PCC’s Future Connect Program, which not only supported him financially but also provided coaching. He is now in his last academic year at PCC, working toward earning an AS degree and then transferring to a four-year university to major in International Relations.

Directly affected by the high cost of textbooks, Kien began advocating for the textbook affordability at PCC. He joined the PCC Open Educational Resources (OER) Steering Committee in 2016 and successfully organized the Textbook Affordability campaign, where students shared stories on how the high cost of textbooks was affecting their success in college. The campaign also included a public panel discussion where students, faculty, the OER committee and a state representative discussed their OER experiences. Kien was honored with the Student Activism Honor Award by Oregon Open Educational Resources for his efforts, and he says, “This award motivated me to work harder, so that not only could I contribute to the OER movement, but also inspire other students to join me with this effort.”

Kien also organized the second annual Multicultural Night event on campus and serves as a Student Board Trustee. He says, “As a person of color, a low-income and first-generation college student, a gay man and a student leader, I make sure to create the space for students to communicate, collaborate with and challenge PCC Board of Directors to consider race, racism and inequality as part of their business practice and policy-making.”

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