Selecting the right school 

To identify an appropriate elementary school (public or charter), a good place to begin is to meet with the school superintendent or equivalent official in the school district where the affiliate/program organizers would like to sponsor a cohort. The purpose of this meeting is to enlist support for bringing IHDF to the district and to solicit the superintendent’s assistance in identifying the most appropriate elementary school for the IHDF Program. The superintendent can provide informa­tion on the quality of the administration and teachers in each school, the students’ performance on standardized tests, the num­bers of students in each grade level, student demographics, and each school’s need for a program like IHDF. National IHDF will ask the superintendent (or designated appointee) to complete a School Data Form.

With the district’s guidance, the Organizer should be able to narrow the choice of schools to a manageable number, about two to five, which the Organizer and/or Expansion Committee can visit. The Organizer/Expansion Committee should follow up each school visit with independent research by talking to people in the com­munity, especially parents, about their impressions of and experi­ence with the school.  Once two to five schools have been identified; National IHDF asks each interested school to complete a School Interest Form along with a Partnership Analysis Form.

Once this information has been gathered and analyzed, select­ing a school from which to sponsor a group of students is much eas­ier. The demographic and logistical factors often make the decision obvious. There are, however, some key items to consider:

  • Need:  The school’s students must show need. A good benchmark for determining students’ need is whether at least 80% or more of the students qualify for the federal free and reduced lunch program. Other factors to look for are a high percentage of students receiving public assistance, a low percentage of students reading at grade level, and the school’s performance on standardized tests. The school superintendent can also identify the neediest schools and comment on their relative strengths and weaknesses. NOTE:  The one exception to choosing a school under the 80% qualifying for free and reduced lunch program is choosing a school in an area with disparities of income levels; and in that case, the Program can choose 100% of the students who are eligible for the federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program to be part of the long-term program and scholarship opportunity (all students in the school can receive services, but the scholarship promise is need-based).

  • School Support & Resources:  The school’s administration must be cooperative and willing to provide logistical support and resources to be included into a formal MOU, including:
    1. Site Partner Fee:  willing to contribute an annual site partner fee (this is negotiated at time of launch).
    2. Data:  access to teachers and counselors and Dreamers’ grades, attendance records, and standardized test scores.
    3. Office Space & Resources:  on-campus office space, either instead of or in addition to an office at a CBO, access to office equipment, and a telephone. This is particularly useful while the Dreamers are all attending one school because Program Staff typically find themselves spending a lot of time there.
    4. Insurance Coverage:  Many schools have also been willing to fold IHDF into their insurance policies, but the Program should consult a local insurance broker or the insurance program offered through the national IHDF to be sure that the school’s insurance provides adequate coverage, especially for off-campus activities and abuse or molestation coverage.
    5.  After-School Programming Space:  There must be adequate space for after-school programming, if the Program will operate in the school rather than a CBO or housing development. Also discuss whether the school can provide space for weekend activities. If not, the Program will need additional, accessible meeting space. The school chosen should be within safe walking distance of Dreamers’ homes or transportation must be arranged.

Other factors to consider in selecting a school include the following:

  • Any personal ties the Organizer or Expansion Committee has to a school that may facilitate cooperation between the school and the program.
  • The school’s accessibility to potential volunteers in terms of public transportation, availability of parking, and safety.
  • The level of existing community, government, and corporate resources in the school’s neighborhood. IHDF Programs have often found that the best environment for introducing a new IHDF Program is a community that needs additional resources, but which has some basic support structures such as an active parents’ group already in place.
  • The political climate of the school. The administration, teachers, and parents should communicate well and be working together for the good of the students.
  • The number of years the Dreamers would be together at the school. Usually, the longer the better because it allows the Program time to develop a strong group identity and to build productive relationships with the school personnel.
  • The school’s feeder pattern. Consider the number of schools Dreamers will attend when they move on to middle school or high school. Running programs,  keeping track of the Dreamers’ progress, and  maintaining the group’s cohesiveness all become more difficult if the Dreamers are attending many different schools.  The Organizer should also discuss with the superintendent the reputations and performance levels of the middle or high schools the Dreamers are likely to attend.

Selecting the right Community Based Organization (CBO)

Researching CBOs

While the Sponsor is investigating possible schools for the IHDF Program, he or she should also be keeping an eye out for a CBO partner. The superintendent or school principal may be able to suggest facilities in the vicinity and provide introductions to the Executive Director or CBO board members. Alternatively, Sponsors may have a CBO in mind before identifying a school. If the CBO is cooperative and enthusiastic, it may be a strong factor in deter­mining whether a school near the CBO is the best place from which to house the program model

While conducting research, the formation committee should meet with the Executive Directors of three or four CBOs that seem like promis­ing prospects. Request written materials and a tour of the facilities at each site. Making drop-in, unannounced visits at various times of the day and evening are a good idea too. They can provide valu­able insights into how the facility operates. On an impromptu after-school visit, for instance, the facility should be a busy, ener­getic place. Also talk to the community residents about their impressions of the CBO. If they have serious concerns about it or use it infrequently, it is probably not the best site. No particular type. o f CBO-youth center, Boys and Girls Club, or school, for instance-is necessarily better suited to the IHAD Program than others. The important factors are the establishment of a good relationship between IHDF and the CBO and the con­venience of the facilities any given CBO can provide. 

There are several issues that should be clearly addressed so that the relation­ship between IHDF and the CBO proceeds as smoothly as possi­ble: overhead costs, supervision of the PC, and allocation of resources. Many IHDF Projects pay a percentage of overhead costs to their CBO. Overhead costs should be based on the actual sup­port and space the CBO will provide. Depending on the Project’s relationship with the CBO, the CBO’s director may provide some day-to-day supervision as well as valu­able program guidance and peer support. 

The program staff, Dreamers, and other IHDF personnel should be respectful and responsible users of the CBO. They should follow the CBO’s procedures for the use of the space, the administration of payroll and tuition payments, and any other functions that the CBO provides to IHDF. The chain of command or realms of accountability should be directly addressed, clearly defined, and mutually agreed upon so that program and CBO staff can work together effectively. 

The issue of allocation of resources arises occasionally. IHDF Projects typically marshall lots of resources and support for the Dreamers from local businesses, colleges, individuals, and so forth. Usually this is beneficial for the Project and by creating an increased awareness of the community needs also leads to a spillover of resources to the community. At times, however, there may be com­petition for resources between IHDF and the CBO, or the CBO may object to IHDF’s limiting resources it cultivates to the Dream­ers alone. That’s why the strong support of the CBO leadership is an important part of selecting a CBO; IHDF Projects should also try to share the resources they cultivate with other CBO clientele whenever possible and appropriate. Ideally, IHDF and the CBO should enter into a written agree­ment defining the specifics of their relationship to avoid disputes or confusion should personnel change.

Selecting the right Public Housing Based Partnerships (PHDP)

The following steps are a guide to assembling all the partners in a PHDP. The steps may not happen exactly in this order and some may happen simultaneously. Much depends on the local circum­stances and contact people.

Cultivate a Relationship with the Local Housing Authority

Send a letter of introduction and an information packet about “I Have A Dream” to the head of the housing authority. If the director or chair­ of the housing authority does not respond, look for contacts within the circles of those involved in getting the Project started and ask for their  help in  getting an introduction  to the authority. If formal and informal attempts do not work, the national “I Have A Dream” Foundation may be able to contact HUD to encourage the locals to take advantage of the program.

Once an initial meeting is achieved, the Expansion Committee should con­tinue discussions with the authority to select a development and to discuss ways that the authority can provide ongoing support to the Project such as rent-free space and funding.

The housing authority should arrange a series of site visits to pub­lic housing developments. Site visits should include meeting with the manager of the development, representatives of the tenants’ associa­tion, and the directors of community-based organizations (CBOs) or community centers associated with the developments. Investigate the availability of space for a Program office and Dreamer activities. The CBO director can describe the programming already in place for children in the development. Consider whether the housing devel­opment needs programming for the second or third graders. Can IHDF build on and complement existing programs in the develop­ment? Do the CBO, tenants’ association and management seem interested in working with IHDF and accommodating the program in the development? These are very important considerations. At some developments, these parties may feel inconvenienced  or  threatened by another program coming in. At others, they may be enormously excited about and supportive of the potential IHDF offers. Also be alert to the physical condition of the development and ask about crime and safety.

For each possible site, the housing authority should also provide demographics that describe the number of eligible residents, the median incomes of their families, and their ethnic breakdown. The recommended cohort includes the kindergartens through third graders in the development, or first through third graders or a combination to include 60 children.

The expansion committee should confer with the local housing authority to select the site based on the statistical information on the potential Dreamers and the information gathered on the public housing developments and the CBOs during the site visits. Once a development is selected, formalize the authority’s commitment to the program in writing. In New York City, for instance, the housing authority requires IHDF programs to submit a proposal for use of community space and cash support. Once approved, IHDF receives an agreement letter confirming the specifics of the authority’s com­mitment to the program. Be prepared to provide information such as a program budget and a description of IHDF’s services to obtain the authority’s approval to operate in the development.

Recruit a College Partner

The expansion committee should research area colleges and identify potential College Partners. The College Partner should be near where the potential Dreamer cohort lives and goes to school, and should have a commitment to reaching out to its surrounding community. Meet with the presi­dents and deans of prospective college partners to introduce the “I Have A Dream” Program to them and request their involvement. After becoming familiar with the IHDF Program, the potential College Partners should submit a plan of their proposed involvement. Once the preferred College Partner has been identified, the president and deans of the institution should obtain approval of its board to participate. When approval has been obtained, IHDF and the College Partner should formalize their relationship with an agreement regarding the funding, staffing, and administrative support commitments to the Program. Having a College Partner does not preclude the involvement of other colleges and universities in the program’s vicinity. Often, dif­ferent institutions can offer different types of support, all of which enhance the program. The importance of recruiting a College Partner is to secure a college as a lifetime partner in the IHDF program.