Standing for “Dreams Realized through Educational Aspiration Model,” D.R.E.A.M. Partnership (DREAM) was formed in 2012 by Donna Partin, a parent whose daughter, Demi, has Down syndrome. When Demi was graduating from high school, she saw all of her friends preparing for college and she asked her mother where she would go to college. After a bit more research, Donna and Demi discovered that there were very limited options in Pennsylvania for students with intellectual disabilities after high school.
Determined to change that, Donna along with other professionals with extensive knowledge related to students with disabilities and post-secondary education formed DREAM with a mission to develop scholarship and post-secondary educational opportunities that lead to independent living and employment for students with intellectual disabilities in Pennsylvania.
In the past nine years, DREAM has become the leader and voice in Pennsylvania in the movement to support students with increased choices of post-secondary options. To date, DREAM has assisted 11 colleges and universities with technical and financial support to create and expand programs. Those programs enroll approximately 100 students annually. Through grants and fundraising, DREAM has created a scholarship fund, which has awarded 202 scholarships totaling more than $813,000 to students who attend DREAM-supported programs.
Even though DREAM’s fundraising events were canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, both the scholarship and new program development initiatives were continued. Thanks to fundraising efforts and community foundation support in 2021, DREAM awarded 30 scholarships for the 2021-2022 academic year and awarded Penn State – Lehigh Valley a “mini-grant” to fund its first full year of development and admit its first pilot student in the Fall of 2021.
“With the success of the mini-grant we are poised to create more programs across Pennsylvania,” said Jeffrey W. Cooper, DREAM Partnership, Executive Director. “More students with intellectual and developmental disabilities will have the opportunity to achieve their dream to attend a college or university, obtain employment and enjoy independent living.”