For many teens, attending college is a given, but for those students who don’t have the means, the dream of college can be crushed. That’s where Greensboro Dreamers comes in. Born out of love for helping students reach their goals, Tom and Kathy Kelly created a window of opportunity for these aspirants. And, three of the Greensboro Dreamers recently graduated from Georgia College.
For Bria Brown and Alberto Eguia; their journey to college, made possible through Greensboro dreamers, began in the sixth grade. For Erin Lawrence, it started in the first grade. Day after day, they would study in afterschool programs, take Saturday classes and more in order to prepare themselves for college.
“We spent countless hours from afterschool to Saturday school studying for the ACT and SAT,” said Brown, who is majoring in community health. “The transition to college was much easier because I knew what to expect. Throughout my college days, I kept in contact with Tom and Kathy Kelly and Beth Thomas [project director] about being on track for college graduation and our grades.”
From the time that most of these children were in the first grade, Greensboro Dreamers founder Tom Kelly, a former healthcare executive, created a foundation for success for these 44 students. Since the program’s inception, he and Kathy raised enough funds to pay for a significant part of their college expenses not covered by scholarships.
Through community service, an afterschool program, attending school two Saturdays a month and for four to five weeks in the summer as well as during fall and spring breaks; Greensboro Dreamers Project Director Beth Thomas worked alongside the students to prepare them for college.
“Beth has been the absolute heart and soul of the program,” said Tom. “She’s amazing with those kids.”
“They worked hard,” said Tom. “If they earned it, they got a plane trip somewhere. Most, if not all of the students earned a plane trip. Some earned two. We also took them on overnight trips to see plays, Cirque Du Soleil and the Space Center in Alabama. We wanted them to see things outside of Greensboro.” Belonging to the Greensboro Dreamers was a well-rounded experience for the students.
“We looked at the whole child,” said Tom. “It wasn’t just about grades. It was about confidence, giving back and dreaming. We wanted to let them know that they could be anything they wanted to be.”
From physical therapy to nursing, among the 44 dreamers, 23 different careers are being pursued by them at colleges in Georgia. In addition, many of the dreamers have jobs.
“When the kids are working, it makes them manage their time wisely,” said Thomas.
“The Greensboro Dreamers played a major role in planning for college,” said Lawrence who is also a community health major. “I am thankful for having substantial help outside of school and home that was adamant about my preparation for college and real world experiences.”
According to Eguia, a management major, he is also thankful for the preparation he had for college.
“We learned so much about what college was like even before we started it,” said Eguia. “They helped us select a college and monitored our grades while we were at Georgia College.”
Upon graduation, Brown plans to find a job in her field or will further her studies in healthcare administration. Eguia plans to join the Marine Corps. as an officer and then become a pilot. Lawrence will apply for her Masters of Science in Nursing at Augusta University.
As for now, Thomas and the Kelly’s are focused on trying to make it to 13 students’ graduations within a six day time frame.
“Our biggest reward is basically seeing how far they’ve come,” said Tom. “We’re excited about how much further they can go.”
“They’re going to be a wonderful force in the world,” said Kathy.
Greensboro Dreamers is a chapter of the I Have a Dream Foundation. Kelly’s is the first rural chapter in the organization’s history. Each chapter has their own guidelines and system for fundraising.