US Dream Academy is a national after school and mentoring program that was founded ten years ago by gospel singer Wintley Phipps. It came to Houston in 2002 and set up shop in the third ward. Last year it moved to Foster Elementary. The organization gets its money from a national fundraiser and from a few smaller grants.
Walter Hull is the local director. He says Phipps was originally involved in prison ministry.
“And so one of the things that he saw over and over were offenders who were worried about their children on their children on the outside, they didn’t want them to make the mistakes they made. So he decided to create a non-profit to create a non-profit that spoke to that underserved population.”
US Dream Academy serves third through fifth graders from 3:30 to 6 five days a week. Hull says the program has three main components.
“Skill building, which is their academic piece, character building, which is the social development and dream building which is exposing them to the arts, entrepreneurial skills, to college and those things, along with a mentor. All of our children we match with a mentor, you know, another positive adult that can remain consistent in their lives.”
Hull says it’s important to let kids know there is more to the world then just their neighborhood. He says most of the children are in foster care or with a relative and are reminded daily that their lives are different.
“I think abandonment issues and self-esteem with a stigma of having a parent incarcerated are some of the things our children in the program go through.”
U.S. Dream Academy had 30 students this school year and expects to double that in the fall. It also runs an academic summer program with 40 enrolled students.