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On October 24, DreamWakers celebrated five years since our founding and officially debuted in our new headquarters city of Washington, DC! The evening provided an opportunity for the DreamWakers community to unite in our mission of empowering and inspiring students across the nation to plan for their futures.

It also offered the perfect opportunity to honor our 2019 Awardees. These four DreamWakers community leaders embody the mission of our organization in their daily lives through commitment, resilience, and dreaming big. Our Awardees were a highlight of the evening, sharing about the power of DreamWakers.

Scholar of the Year: David Brown
10th-grade Student, Graham High School, Bluefield, VA

David Brown remembered many flashchats that sparked his entrepreneurial spirit and inspired him to start Addicting Gainz, an athletic wear company, with his three best friends. With knowledge and exposure from these flashchats, David Brown is planning to pursue a four-year college degree and expand his business to a bigger scale.

DreamWakers allowed me to visit the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, which showed me what I could work for. Ever since this experience, I’ve pushed myself to a higher level, so I could reach this goal.

Speaker of the Year: Marci Hodge
Senior Policy Advisor, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC

Marci, a Senior Policy Advisor for the Office of Global Women’s Issues at the U.S. State Department and a part-time Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserves as a Civil Affairs Officer, brings a unique authenticity and relatability to all that she does. As a speaker, Marci inspires students to be the future changemakers and leaders of the world during the several flashchats she hosts each semester.

After the first flashchat I hosted, I heard that the students wanted to learn more about [my work with] girls in other countries who didn’t have the opportunity to go to school. This made me realize that I had an impact, where they could see beyond their world. There are great possibilities for them in this world, just like there were for me.

Volunteer of the Year: Ahiza Garcia
Tech Reporter, CNN Business, and DreamWakers Advisory Council Member, San Francisco, CA

Ahiza was inspired to become involved with DreamWakers in 2016 upon learning about our commitment to forging relationships between underserved students and a diverse speakers. To date, Ahiza has hosted seven flashchats, recruited family members to host flashchats, and serves as a genuine ambassador of our work across the U.S.

I once sat down with Condoleezza Rice, who noted that as a woman of color, if she had waited to follow in the footsteps of someone who looked like her, she would still be waiting. There will always be Condoleezzas who blaze their trails, but what about the many students who have the potential to do incredible things but aren’t even aware of the possibilities, the many students who might not realize the dreams they could have? That’s what DreamWakers does. It creates a bridge between students and potential dreams.

Teacher of the Year: Kelly Pearce
7th- and 8th-grade Teacher, Lincoln Middle School, Rio Rancho, NM

Kelly came to DreamWakers through the White House Historical Association Teacher’s Institute and is now a Teacher Fellow for DreamWakers. Her students are notably engaged with speakers, prepared with self-driven research, and ask thoughtful questions — a true testament to Kelly’s outstanding dedication to her students and her ability teach how to take advantage of opportunities and ask questions.

Recently, I ran into a former student who is now a junior in high school. She enthusiastically told me that I am the reason she now loves to write, even though I still remember how difficult it was to get her to open a sentence back in the day. I have realized that the impacts that adults play in the lives of children often do not manifest themselves until much later… Each and every DreamWakers guest I have met has made me a better version of myself.

Closing out the night, keynote speaker Gregory Lorjuste, Director of Scheduling at the Office of Barack and Michelle Obama and DreamWakers Advisory Council Member, spoke candidly about his personal struggles growing up. DreamWakers’ commitment to serving students from low-income neighborhoods resonates with Greg, now successful professional who has experienced the invaluable impact of role models.

This is what was missing in my school years. I truly believe that more exposure to positive professionals would have made a difference in my life much earlier. It took me until my junior year in high school to change course. I can’t change what happened in my life, but I can do things to ensure that student’s who have similar backgrounds, can hear from me and hopefully change course sooner than I did.

DreamWakers is deeply grateful to our community members who joined us at our DC Debut to help us honor our incredible awardees and celebrate five years of waking dreams. Check out the video and photos on Facebook!

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