By the age of six, students from low-income households spend 1,300 fewer hours outside of their home compared to their affluent peers.¹ Research shows that students’ lack of exposure to extracurricular learning manifests in long-lasting educational and professional consequences. These same students are more likely to lack access to broadband internet and have parents who work in an economic sector made vulnerable by the COVID-19 pandemic.²
The work of connecting students from low-income families to career professionals is more important now than ever before. As the pandemic threatens to widen the current opportunity gap, DreamWakers is committed to our mission of closing it. That is why we are launching DreamWakers’ See It. Dream It. Be It. Campaign.
With unprecedented demand for DreamWakers’ virtual career connections as many schools return to class in virtual and hybrid models this Fall, we are striving to raise $25,000 to ramp up our operations and ensure that we can bring inspiration, connection, and career role models to systemically under-resourced classrooms across the country.
In a national survey, 76% of low-income parents expressed fears of their child falling behind academically, while just 57% of more affluent families expressed the same concern.³ When schools first transitioned to remote-learning environments in the Spring, under-resourced school districts were less likely to require educators to teach in real-time; their students thus lacked the opportunity to interact with one another and their teachers.⁴ Although a lack of social interaction can be challenging for just about anyone, developmental scientists are particularly concerned about the impact it will have on students’ social skills and mental health.
For the past six years, DreamWakers has been creating opportunities for students to build public speaking skills and confidence engaging with adults. In fact, 76% of students feel more comfortable speaking to an industry professional after participating in a flashchat. While opportunities for meaningful interaction can be sparse nowadays, flashchats provide students a chance to speak up and voice their burning questions, interests, and wildest dreams — and to be heard!
Our aim is to support educators in their efforts to engage students in the classroom, bringing our vast network of career role models and experience in virtual learning, to students at home and at school. DreamWakers’ flashchats are not only engaging and highly interactive, but also inspiring, encouraging students to look forward to the future at a time when long-term planning can feel seemingly impossible. We know this semester will be difficult for most students — many of whom will not get to enjoy lunchtime with classmates or collaborate on exciting science projects — but our speakers come prepared to share how they have stayed motivated throughout their lives and what students have to look forward to after high school and beyond!
Studies have linked longer-term school closures with increased rates of high school drop-out. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Maria in 2014, between 14 and 20% of students never returned to the classroom.⁵ Many scholars and analysts worry that the COVID-19 pandemic could cause similar levels of drop-out, making it even more important that students are exposed to career professionals who have overcome their own obstacles and setbacks.
In spite of everything going on in the world, students still have big dreams and are counting on us to create an enabling environment to build skills and take in guidance as they pursue their goals. With your support, DreamWakers will continue to support students as they SEE what they can BE.
Written by Maddi Larmore, DreamWakers Education Intern
Ready to celebrate the hard work of students and teachers this year? Register here to attend our Fall 2020 action campaign celebration on September 30 at 8pm ET! Highlights will include a live raffle, community awards, special messages from some of our most inspiring #DreamSpeakers, and insights from our #DreamEducators across the U.S.
 Meredith Phillip in Whither Opportunity? Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children’s Life Chances
 Urban Institute Center for Education Data and Policy, Mapping Student Needs during COVID-19: An Assessment of Remote Learning Environments
 Pew Research Center, Lower-income parents most concerned about their children falling behind amid COVID-19 school closures
 Center on Reinventing Public Education, Too Many Schools Leave Learning to Chance During the Pandemic
 McKinsey & Company, COVID-19 and student learning in the United States: The hurt could last a lifetime