EDITOR’S NOTE: One man was recently asked to take on the role of Clark Kent. But, instead of stepping into a phone booth, he stepped onto a bus filled with fifth-graders from the Wood River Valley.
Their destination? The vaunted soccer match between Spain’s Athletic Bilbao and Mexico’s Club Tijuana at Bronco Stadium in Boise.
The prospects of spending six hours in a bus with a bunch of energetic youngsters, arriving home way after midnight, was a bit intimidating, to say the least. But any misgivings quickly dissipated as he became engrossed in the youth, their families and the leaders of our community who are trying to give these youngsters opportunities that will nurture them into the leaders of the future.
Here’s his story:
The soccer match this past July 18th at Albertson’s Stadium on the Boise State campus was an exciting moment to behold on many fronts.
A chartered bus, sponsored by the I Have a Dream Foundation-Idaho’s executive board, was filled with happy, cheerful, 10- and 11-year-old Idaho Dreamers from the participating surrounding elementary schools here in Blaine County.
These instant soccer fans, who travelled all the way from Hailey, were right at home with the two teams’ passionate, loyal enthusiasts in the bleachers from all over the Gem State. It was obvious that they were having so much fun, while mirroring the mission this benevolent organization espouses.
This trip was a reward for their good work and completion of reaching personal goals set before them during the Dreamers summer program. And a glimpse at the promise of what the future holds for these young boys and girls and the rewards that an education will bring to them was inspiration for each, as well as their parents and chaperones.
When asked what their best subjects were, the majority said without skipping a beat that reading and math were favorites.
“Mr. Lewis always asks me what I am reading,” one boy said, referring to Kenneth Lewis, Idaho Board of Directors President. “This summer I’m reading, ‘The Boy in Striped Pajamas.’ I saw the movie, but I like the book better. It’s more detailed.”
The Basque Soccer Friendly they had come to see perfectly exemplified the passion of the Dreamers vision to be the best that they can be, in terms of developing themselves as good, honorable, students. In addition to educational classes and tutoring, Dreamers learn to comprehend what it means to be kind, trustworthy, confident, compassionate human beings with ethics, integrity and morality.
Many of the families who dropped their children off before the bus ride were jubilant and proud to share the residual benefits of their child’s hard work in school, which included a wonderful summer reading list of books. They commented emphatically that the IHAD organization has fostered their son or daughter’s direction in life by opening up a world of possibilities for them to choose from.
Their collective opinion is that the kids now know that they can be anything they want to be. The kids don’t hold back. They feel the support and love of the I Have a Dream volunteers. And they understand that the staff is ensuring their pursuit of success in a career of their choice.
“I, myself, would have liked to have had this opportunity growing up,” reflected one Dreamer’s older sister.
Blanca and Enrique Hurtado, mother and father to one of the Dreamers were obviously proud of their child and the changes they have seen in him since he began.
“I think this program is awesome. Our son is not only focused on school and learning but also friendships. The change is that he is focused on his talent and what lies ahead in the future,” said Bianca Hurtado. “He wasn’t before he started.”
“My boy is now friendly and respectful to others,” added Enrique Hurtado. “He has a dream and it is to be a soccer player and go to college.”
Craig Eastop, a physical education teacher at Alturas Elementary, explained the program’s success this way: “It’s a tremendous gift to the kids. For them to receive this help is a big head start. Many of them would not have ever thought about college. I like seeing them get the extra education. They also learn that they will give back to this community down the road. I’ve seen kids become responsible and take more ownership of their personal path to learning. More importantly, they learn to accept their differences with other children.”
That day, Spain won the thrilling game against Mexico 2-0. But the real winners, in my mind, are the Idaho Dreamers who attended. The I Have A Dream Foundation-Idaho is a win-win for all who are involved. I think that these youngsters are one of the most valuable commodities this great agricultural state of Idaho will produce. And IHAD-Idaho offers these kids a passport to life.