2017 Award for Excellence in Educational Access

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 Journeys to Success: Equity and Access for All Students 

Boston, MA – April 5-7, 2017

Award for Excellence in Educational Access

Presented by the National Partnership for Educational Access (NPEA) and
the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation

The National Partnership for Educational Access (NPEA) and Jack Kent Cooke Foundation are pleased to announce the winner of the 2017 Award for Excellence in Educational Access. For the second year in a row, NPEA Member Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is generously sponsoring the Award for Excellence in Educational Access.

2017 Award Winner: Des Moines “I Have a Dream” Foundation

NPEA is pleased to announce the winner of the 2017 Award for Excellence in Educational Access: Des Moines “I Have A Dream” Foundation – Dreamer Academy (Des Moines, IA). Emily Westergaard (Executive Director) received the award on behalf of the organization at the NPEA 2017 conference on Friday, April 7. Read the official press release.

Des Moines “I Have A Dream” Foundation – Dreamer Academy works with students and families from kindergarten to and through graduation to identify barriers each student faces and develop sustainable solutions to help every child succeed. The Dreamer Academy program operates at Findley Elementary and Harding Middle School in Des Moines. Their wraparound approach to supporting families and the involvement across layers of their community speaks to the transformational nature of their work for the entire community, extending far beyond the students directly impacted in their programming.

Guided by research in the field around the impact of saving for college, this program worked with state legislators to develop and successfully pass legislation resulting in their state allowing nonprofits to own 529 College Savings Accounts. They’ve brought a college-going culture and growth mindset strategies into the classrooms of their elementary-aged students, increased their students typical academic growth to reach the highest percentage in their district, improved student hopefulness and attendance rates, and improved reading and math proficiency by nearly 10% for African American boys. In just six years, they’ve doubled their budget and staff and increased the number of students served from 45 to over 550, implementing economies of scale to develop a replicable model for other school districts and serving as a catalyst for systemic work.

Pictured (l-r): Emily Westergaard (“I Have a Dream” – Des Moines) and Cecilia Marshall (Jack Kent Cooke Foundation). Photo credit: Sam Moody Photography

When asked to comment, Executive Director Emily Westergaard, expressed:

I Have a Dream – Des Moines is thrilled to be selected for this year’s Jack Kent Cooke Foundation NPEA Award. We’re proud of the work we’re doing in Des Moines to make sure more kids graduate from high school with the tools they need to succeed in college and beyond, and we appreciate the national recognition this award gives to our Dreamer Academy program. The Dreamer Academy is one of the first of its kind in the nation to pair long-term, proactive, wrap-around supports with real investments in college savings accounts for kids starting in kindergarten. Our organization strives to be collaborative, innovative, and make programing decisions based on data, and the NPEA/Cooke Award will help us build connections beyond our community to learn from other organizations and share what we’re learning to help strengthen outcomes for underrepresented students everywhere.”

2017 Award Nominees

We were pleased to receive several strong nominations for this year’s award. Please click on the links below to read more about these outstanding organizations, programs, and schools.


The Award will recognize an NPEA Member Organization/Program or School who has made a notable difference in the lives of underrepresented students and has demonstrated:

  1. Effective practices in supporting underrepresented students with high-quality educational opportunities along the K-16 continuum;
  2. Commitment to using data to inform and improve programming as well as organizational/school practices more broadly;
  3. Support for students’ personal growth and success as critical thinkers, ethical leaders, and supportive community members;
  4. Commitment to sustainability, including evidence of systems that support long-term success and/or potential growth;
  5. Leadership in the community and commitment to the field of educational access; and
  6. Creative problem-solving, innovation, adaptability, and productive growth in meeting the needs of their constituents.


To read about the winner of the 2016 Award for Excellence in Educational Access, LINK Unlimited Scholars, please click here.

To read about the winner of the 2015 Award for Excellence in Collaboration, The Clarence T.C. Ching PUEO Program at Punahou School, please click here.

Past winners also include Buffalo Prep (2014), Aim High (2013), The Partners Program at The College Preparatory School (2012), and Middle Grades Partnership (2011).

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