Student blog of the Stanford University Urban Studies Department

Category Archives: 2013 Urban Studies Fellowship

Philadelphia Planning Week 8 (Nick, Final Week!)

Philadelphia Planning Week 7 (Nick)

This week was the end of the Mayor’s Internship Program (not of my internship placement though). It was an amazing journey and a great end to the program. There were about 100 people in attendance from across the different departments to see the 10 presentations. All the work that my group put in to the paper and presentation really paid off, as we were received quite well by the audience and people had some great questions to ask as well. Here is a summary of what we learned and the presentation.

Our project was to do analysis on the economic revitalization process of the Germantown, Broad, and Erie commercial corridor in North Philadelphia. The goals were to assist with the preparation of a festival that the commerce department is heading in the area, to reassess the Mater Plan laid out for the area in 2010, and to give suggestions for future action by the city for the corridor and district in the future. We gave some context to the project by talking about the Lower North District which I had learned a lot about for the public meetings. I talked about the loss of industry in the district and the extreme loss of population between 1960 and today (250,000 people in 1960 to 95,000 in the 2010 census). We also talked about what some of the primary landmarks in the area are which included the SEPTA (transit network of South East PA) subway station and the Temple University Hospital. Then we went on to talk about what progress has been made in the corridor and what problems still exist. We also gave suggestions to the city on how to move forward in addressing the issues. We used a phrase that we learned from the head of the Dept. of Commerce, which was that it is not the the business of the government to create jobs, but to create the environment for job creation (someone stood up and started clapping when we mentioned that). We suggested that the city should fix broken sidewalks and trim trees as they would elsewhere, but their primary role in improving the commercial corridor and surrounding community would be to support the efforts of the newly formed business owners association and to help residents and business owners take more ownership of their neighborhood. 

For more information on the project there is a link to the presentation below. I will also try to figure out how to put in the paper for my final blog post.


I also learned a lot about presenting and presentation making. We used a software called Prezi which I had never used before, but not feel quite comfortable using. It can make professional quality presentations while having an engaging format. The slides above are not how it would be presented, but I thin that people really liked it at the presentation. I also learned about the importance of professional presenting. We stood at a podium and had people in the room who had no clue what we were talking about, and our mission was to bring them up to speed quickly so that we could also go more in depth for the people who we had been working with the entire time. We also had to field questions that were extremely engaging, but answer concisely and with a political mindset. I think that it got me out of my comfort zone and helped me grow.

v My group looking snazzy for presentations in front of the seal of Philadelphia



v My group standing with Dr. Stanford, out supervisor for the Economic Revitalization project from Commerce


v Me Presenting for my group


We got to chat with the Mayor afterwards and he let us ask questions and asked us where we were from and if we were gonna stay in the city, and work in Philadelphia city government. I asked Mayor Nutter about frustrations he had with the job and where he felt restricted by the position. I hope to one day go into Philadelphia city politics, so I was interested in how I could prepare myself, and at what level, does the power to change things get limited by politics. He seemed to like the question, and talk more freely about it than with most of the other questions. He explained that the job is not easy, but that it is rewarding. I also asked him about his initiatives for the city and how they seem to not only be moving the city forward, but fixing the issues that past administrations had kicked down the road. He seemed happy to hear that I noticed that, because that was his plan. He wanted to bring a professionalism and passion to city government and that meant taking on as much of a challenge as possible, and rising to it without excuses. Nobody is perfect, but when it matters, I think Mayor Nutter tries to get as close to perfect as possible and sets the example for the rest of the city.


This program was a great experience, and I move forward with new confidence in myself, new skills, and an invigorated passion to lead the change I want to see. As I finish up my internship I will miss meeting with other students every Friday to explore government, and I will miss working on the engaging group project which brought together so much learning and experience into one package.

v My fellow City Planning Commission interns through the Mayor’s Internship Program, Nabilla and Andreas


Next week is my last week working at the Planning Commission, so till next time i leave you with my fellow group members being silly, Nick out.


Philadelphia Planning Week 6 (Nick)

Another great week in Philadelphia. Things are really settling in, but remain interesting. I have been having fun working through the rezoning research and have been working on the central district of Philadelphia, more specifically the Northern Liberties area, and see how much work is needed to finish the full city zoning overhaul. I have also been spending a lot of time in the development section of the Planning Commission where people come in to get their development plans checked out in order to go through an approval process. The people on the development side seem extremely energetic and personable, which makes sense since they handle people’s plans and questions every day. The perspective I have gained working in development is what projects are actually being build in the city, what are the major challenges, and where bureaucracy succeeds and where it may need some work. Having people go through plans is great because even though there is a possibility for human error, there is an ability to understand circumstance and help to direct citizens through a long and pretty complicated process. There was also a cool moment when I realized that the government is thinking into the future with development through the future flood plan parameters used in the approval process. Development needs to meet certain standards if it is going to be built in the hundred or five-hundred year flood plane. It made me happy to realize that our government is thinking about the long term.

The new things that made there way into my summer experience were another Lower North District public meeting of a different variety than last week, Getting together our final presentation for the Mayor’s Internship Program, and going to see a Phillies game with MIP in the Mayor’s Box.

The public meeting this week took place at Cruz Recreation Center on the other side of the Lower North district than the meeting last week to get more input and from different communities within the district. This meeting was extremely well organized and also very productive. In contrast to the previous week’s meeting (also posted), this meeting was not as well attended (about 80 people), but in a good way that people were able to give back much more and better feedback and were able to learn a lot more about the planning process and what we could do for them. This meeting also had a presentation for people to get a broad overview and have a forum to ask questions and hear from others as well. Another major difference this time was that the weather was far more mild, which kept people a little more cool. So all in all, the meeting went extremely well. BUT! Nothing is perfect and I think it would be very valuable to talk about some other differences between the meetings. One was that this meeting took place right in between what would be considered a gentrified or gentrifying White neighborhood and a much less affluent, mostly Black and Hispanic area of the district. The community that seemed to come to this meeting in force was the more affluent one. While this in itself is not a problem because the meetings are meant to get the opinions of many populations in the district, this meeting (one of three) may have majorly skewed the data and understanding of life in the districts and the wants and needs of the many communities that inhabit the area. If the planning commission acts on the data acquired from this meeting, then the issues that would be addressed would be far off the target of the primary issues in the district. Luckily, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission understands the differences in different parts of the district and when people come they are asked to put a dot on a map of where they live. So there are some controls in place. It just lessens the significance of the data collected at this meeting as it pertains to the district as a whole. Never the less, it was a productive meeting and I could see people engaging critically with the planning process which was very exciting.


My Supervisor Andy! (below)


For the Mayor’s Internship Program, the summer is wrapping up and we are preparing to present our summer economic redevelopment project to members and heads of many departments in the city as well as to our supervisors in Commerce. We are tasked with writing a paper detailing the conclusion of our work and preparing a 10 minute presentation. Although these sound like relatively simple tasks, especially for college students who have to crank out a paper or presentation every week, it is hard to get 10 individuals to agree on things and work together efficiently and effectively on 2 deliverables. The group really gets along well at this point in the summer, so I have faith it will turn out well, it is just taking a long time to synthesize all of the thoughts, experiences, and knowledge of the group. I will let you know how it all goes next week. Knock on wood!

Finally, this week had a fun twist as MIP went to see the Phillies game in the Mayor’s box. It was a blast to get to hang with members of the program outside of a business context and outside of business clothes. Phillies have not been doing too hot lately… so the conclusion of the game was somewhat anti-climactic, but the experience i what matters, and t is why even when the team is doing poorly, the games are still full of people (granted much less than a few years ago). I would have liked to meet with the rest of the program like this earlier in the summer. It was fun, but I also feel like I networked by getting to know people more organically and sharing a fun experience. I will suggest that they do more social outings in the future.


Until next week, wish me luck on our presentation and paper.


Philadelphia Planning Week 5 (Nick)

This week was another thrilling week at the Planning Commission and with the Mayor’s Internship Program. The highlights of the week were The first Lower North District public meeting at MLK Jr. Recreation Center and a trip to the Philadelphia International Airport to talk to some major players in transportation in the city.

The Airport panel was comprised of the CEO of the airport, one of the major players in the Airport renovations going on, and the head of the Streets Department. I learned a ton about how the airport plays into the economic vitality of the region. The airport hosts 30 million visitors per year. It is one of the busiest in the world, and it is also extremely out of date and under capacity. Because of this, the airport is undergoing a multi-billion dollar renovation to expand capacity and to bring the airport into the modern age. This  means that the terminals will be better connected so that patrons are not shuttled around the airport which is more than a mile long. Also, the runway capacity will be expanded so that larger planes can fly into the airport which means that we can be a hub for more direct international flights. I wondered where the airport was getting this money as the city really does not have capital like that, and found out that while the airport is a”Philly”ated with the city, it runs as its own business and has to borrow that money against the future income of the airport and it has to justify the expenses to the airlines that run through the airport as the airlines will have the costs passes on to them. It was interesting to learn about the workings of the airport as a business and as a resource for the city. We also took a tour of the airport and of the grounds and saw the command center which directs traffic and were able to see the air strips from above. It was amazing to see how many planes are taking off and landing so frequently and how streamlined they have gotten the process. Even with that, there is always a long line waiting to take off, and the airport is considered a 2 hour early arrival airport because the security gets tied up. It is definitely time for a much needed upgrade if Philadelphia wants more international traffic and connection to larger markets.





What was more exciting about this week was the first Lower North District public meeting which was very different from the Central Northeast meeting from the week before. Before I start of the meeting, I would like to give some background on the district. The Lower North district is just north of the downtown central district. It was once a thriving industrial district home to about 250,000 people. We learn in urban studies that many cities experienced a loss of industry  and population since the 1960s and this district was hit the hardest by these trends out of any in the city. The population of the district now is under 100,000 which means that there is a lot of vacancy, a lot of services are not working at full capacity, and a lot of commercial districts are boarded up or struggling. Another issue is that a lot of the industrial jobs that once employed most of the district are gone and unemployment is a big issue. Finally, the district is primarily black which is in contrast to the mostly, but not totally, white planning commission. With this in mind, I knew that the public meeting would be interesting and it was. I think that I learned more from this meeting than any other event in my life. The purpose of the public meeting was to gather information and get the input of people living in the district about what changes they would like to see. There were more people than we expected who came to the meeting. A lot of the people came in already suspicious of the Planning Commission and thought that the commission was trying to to pull a fast one on them and make changes to kick the community out without them knowing while saying that we got their input. When I listened in on what people said, I felt that emotions were high and that these people were scared of the government and perceived the city planning commission as the city and wanted us to do things like reduce crime and pick up garbage. It was sad because the many of the things that people wanted to talk about were very real issues in the district, but they were things that the planning commission really had little to no ability to deal with. I was forced to understand the limits of city government and of urban planning to affect change in people’s lives. I was also forced to struggle with internal conflicts in understanding why people were angry at the city, but also confused because all the intentions of the public meeting were pure. I realized that the purest of intentions often become the worst nightmare to those that are being affected. If we were to help the people in the district make their neighborhoods nicer and more livable, than they could possibly be priced out and forced to move out of a place that many of them have lived in for their whole lives. If we do nothing, than we are not providing what the people want and ask of us as a city governing body. There is a fine line between helping and hurting when it comes to government especially when you can see the lives that you will effect. This is the start of an internal debate that I will most likely have for the rest of my life, and for that reason, this public meeting was the most influential event of my summer and maybe life. Even with all that being said, there was a lot learned from the meeting about how people want to see their neighborhood changed and how passionate people can be about the places they live.









This meeting was eye opening to say the least. I think that as the summer goes on, my perceptions will be informed by this meeting.

Till week 6!


Final Week! (Cassandra Calderón)

Hello y’all!

I can’t believe this is my last week at the EDP. I guess it is really true what they say that time flies when you are having fun. The past eight weeks have been full of learning and new experiences from updating the database to attending board meetings to handing out surveys to writing blog posts.

Although the majority of my time was spent working on my survey research project, I am thankful that I really got to know the staff that I work with. There is nothing like being able to talk to your co-workers about anything and everything whether work related or not. I truly appreciate everything they did for me on a regular basis. Thanks so much to Rebecca, the executive assistant, for always being there across the room making sure everything was going smoothly and allowing me to help her with daily office duties. Thank you to Holly, the vice president of operations, for being my supervisor and helping me with all the administrative duties needed for the Fellowship. Thank you to Laura Lea, vice president of retention and expansion, for taking me to all your weekly meeting and allowing me to learn about the companies that serve our community and for sharing your stories with me. Thank you to Gil, CEO, for making me part of the team and always finding new ways to promote my project.

Anyway, this week I have been wrapping up my final report. The final report came out to 55 pages filled with graphics, pictures, and lots of words. I had a blast putting it together. I have also outlined several future action plans the EDP can take in order to better integrate the community and the businesses. I really enjoyed learning about what this community has to offer. I’ve met so many intelligent and driven individuals whom I hope I stay in contact with in the future.

I am very thankful for this opportunity.  A very special thank you to the Urban Studies department for sponsoring the Fellowship.


Cassandra Calderon

2013-08-16 10.40.07

Philadelphia Planning Week 4 (Nick)

This week I continued with a lot of the same projects that I have been working on this summer including the rezoning project and the commercial corridor revitalization project. These continue to go well and teach me a lot as I sit in on meetings and get an insider view into the political process and the connection between government, the market, and the public.

A new development (this will soon be a pun) is that I have started to manage a database for the development team in the Planning Commission (see what I did there). This entails a little bit of tedious data entry but has also served as a gateway to an entirely different set of processes that exist int he office and city. Development is the group that serves as the planning branch to developers and citizens who want to build or alter buildings within the city. I have had the pleasure of sitting in on a heated Zoning Board meeting in which a developer had written angry and aggressive letters to the residents of the area about a project that they did not want. The project went to the Zoning Board because it required variances in the zoning code about what height, size, and how many units could be built on the proposed lots. There was a room full of people, some in support, and many against the development. NBC was there to cover the story, and emotions were high in the room. It was amazing to see so much public participation in the public and private realm dealings.

DSC_0029 DSC_0028

This week I also attended the first public meeting for the Central Northeast District Plan. At this meeting I was able to see how community input might be gathered and what some of the concerns are of this district in the city. The meeting was held in a well known historical landmark called Knowlton Mansion and there were about 100 citizens in attendance and about 25 city planning staff. Something that I was able to gather from this meeting that reinforced my experience at the DVRPC public meeting (see week 2), is that most of the community that engages with planning processes that look decades into the future is the elderly with no youth and very little young population. This means that the input that the planning commission is getting is extremely skewed. The missing parties seemed to be young professionals and younger families who might be the ones living with the future plan that is being formed through these meetings. While that fact was a little concerning, the meeting was still a huge success with a high attendance, very few bumps in the road, and an amazing insight into the process and the passion of the people I am working with to help move it all forward. Yet again, NBC news was there to over the story which was pretty cool. (I was the photographer… lots of pictures)







Another great experience this week was a luncheon between the Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC). During this lunch we got to know the other organization a little better, and the DVRPC also presented on their new 2040 plan. This was a great view into the collaboration between planning organizations and how they work together and try to stay on the same page. The most interesting thing that I learned at this meeting that was different from the previous one is about transportation funding structures. The most incredible fact I learned is that the Philadelphia region has one of the lowest local funding basses for transportation in the country. We provide about $21 per capita in the Philadelphia region whicle the national avg is about $120 per capita. When I did out the math, this means that if we were just to get to the national avg, we would have an extra billion dollars a year in transportation funding. With a 30 year budget currently around $53 billion, that $30 billion would do a lot for the region. At current funding levels there is a lot of maintenance left unfunded on bridges, roads, and rails and no money in the coffers for transit expansion. If we want to be able to compete as an urban region, we really need to step up our game. I also learned that this is largely due to PA taxing structure and policies. In a state that is mostly rural by land area and county representatives, with a Republican governor, and the most structurally deficient bridges in the country, it is going to take a lot for things to change for the most urban and democratic area in the state.

DVRPC Funding picture

Finally (long week to say the least!), the exploring government this week focused on the judicial system and finance department. We learned about how Philadelphia tightened its belt during the recession and why the city did not take advantage of cheap building costs during the recession where private companies and the federal government might have. The answer is that there were important priorities and the city can only handle so much debt service while not being able to raise taxes for projects. The director of Finance Rob Budow made the comment that government is public and political, and that is part of what makes it interesting for him. The panel also took us through how much the city’s government has changed in the past years and the level of responsibility the cities are taking on which requires them to tighten their belts and become more professional than ever before. The last thing they talked about is the Actual Value Initiative (AVI) which is the biggest project being undertaken by the government during this administration. This initiative is meant to overhaul the property tax system to make it more fair and accurate. An issue that has plagued the city for a long time is that property taxes were being raised in some areas and not in others as a way of increasing city revenue. This has left a broken system that makes no actual sense where properties are no longer evaluated under any common guidelines. Mayor Nutter is setting the goal to have the system completely redone by the end of his administration. This means some people may see higher taxes, and some lower, so the city is also putting through policy to make sure to not accidentally spur on gentrification, and also not to great a rush for property in any districts. It was an eye opening panel for sure.

For the judicial panel, we traveled to the civil court in city hall and met with Judge Rizzo who is one of the coolest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. She pioneered initiatives in the judicial branch of government to try to control the foreclosure crisis during the start of the recession. She brought together banks and citizens to settle instead of getting kicked out of their housing in a win-win-win situation. The person was able to stay in their home, the bank in the long term would make much more money when the person was able to start paying their mortgages again, and the city did not have a flood of people who were made homeless that would need social services in a city already strapped for funding. The model has been copied all around the country and has been celebrated as a major success by the judicial system.



Thank you so much for reading, and get ready for a mid-summer video update coming soon.

Urban Studies Fellowship: Week 6&7! (Cassandra Calderon)

Hello everyone!

Sorry for not posting last week, but I have been super busy putting together the final report. Between this week and last week I got about 25 new surveys in and I have been compiling all the answers in one big excel spreadsheet. Today is the deadline to turn in all the surveys. Let’s see how many I get. I have really enjoyed getting in new surveys and learning what residents and businesses have to say about the community. 

In order to start writing my final report, I have looked at other survey report findings online. I had not realized how much information one can gather from two short surveys. Both residents and businesses have praised The Woodlands area for its uniqueness, but they all have also stated their main concerns. I decided to create my report on powerpoint because it is easier to edit as I am including numerous charts, graphs, and pictures. As of right now, I have 40 slides. Once I am finished with the report, I will print it in color and bind it.  

As I mentioned before, I have spent these two last weeks putting together my report. I have learned so much already from how to read other social scientific data to how to create and read graphics. I have also gained valuable data analysis skills that I did not have before. 

Before I go, I want to leave you with a sneak peak of two of my slides: 




Urban Studies Fellowship: Week 5! (Cassandra Calderon)

Hello y’all!

This week has been all about meetings, meetings, and more meetings. Monday morning, I went with Laura Lea to one of her business retention and expansion meetings with Oxbow Sulphur Inc. We visited their office here in The Woodlands and met with the office manager. I felt as if I was back in science class learning about sulphur, sulphuric acid and fertilizers, BUT in a more interesting and hands on experience. Not only did I get to learn how sulphur is used on a daily basis, but I also got to learn how the company distributes it. After that meetings, I realized that Laura Lea’s job is to meet with all the businesses established in the area, weather small or big, public or private, member or non-member. Her role in the business community is to connect businesses, advise businesses on community matters, organize forums for the businesses, and provide businesses with resources. She is very knowledgeable about the area and can answer almost every single question I have from who is the developer of a new building site to who is the managerial staff of a multi-tenant building.

Tuesday afternoon, Laura Lea and I went to a lunch appointment with PetroQuest, an energy company that is relocating to The Woodlands. At this meeting, I learned the steps a company must take to relocate. Luckily, PetroQuest is just relocating from the Greenspoint area to the Woodlands area, a 30 minute drive. We met with the executive vice president of business development and land, as well as the business development coordinator. They shared with us the challenges they are facing with relocation, as well as how their company will be impacted.

On Wednesday, Gil and I had a phone interview with the Community Impact Newspaper, which is a Texas news organization that distributes information at the community level. The interview was regarding my Urban Studies Fellowship and project. Not only will the article help my project get recognition in the community, but will( hopefully) also encourage businesses and residents to take the surveys. Here is the link if you would like to read the article: http://impactnews.com/houston-metro/the-woodlands/edp-surveying-woodlands-residents%2C-businesses-about-economic/.

On Thursday morning, we had our monthly board meetings. 42 board members showed up and the meeting ran a bit more than expected. There was a lot discussed regarding the community as two new class A office buildings are being built in The Woodlands. I really enjoy attending these board meetings, plus I get to do a quick report on my project.

Lastly, I have started putting together my final report. Although, I am still not finished collecting all the surveys (my deadline is August 9th), I have started working on a template for the project. As I work more and more on the project, I get more excited to see the final deliverable report finish.

Until next week!

Philadelphia Planning, Week 3 (Nick)

The Mayor’s Internship program has really been taking off. This week has been full of experiences and learning opportunities.

This week, our exploring government session was host to an education and a public health panel. We heard from people that work in the Mayor’s Office of Education, the 2nd in command for the Philadelphia School District and people who run sucessful education programs in the city. It was an eye opening look into the thought processes of policy makers and action takers in the realm of Education, especially in Philadelphia. For those who do not know, Philadelphia is facing a budget crisis which has been refereed to as a “doomsday” scenario. The school district has been forced to make many tough decisions including shutting down 20ish schools (after another 30 last year), removing funding for music, arts, sports, and laying off office staff and guidance counselors. It was exciting to hear from the panel about why the situation is as bad as it is (years of problems made worse by some funding streams disappearing from the federal level), what this means for the families who cannot afford to pay to send their kids to private schools, and so much more. I learned that the situation is much more complicated than I could have imagined, but that there is hope on the horizon with funding sources opening up and strong new leadership taking control of the situation. We were able to talk in a brown bag lunch (more intimate small group conversation over lunch) to Ami Patel who works for the Mayor’s Office of Education about the Mayor’s ambitious goals for the city and how they are being met. The mayor is pushing to raise the High school graduation rate in the city from 65% to 80% and the percentage of people in the city with a college degree from 25% to 35%. So far during the Nutter administration the rates have increased substantially (5% higher college graduate population and 7% increase in high school graduation rate. We were also able to understand what kind of effect the mayor and city administration can have over education in the city, and I was surprised at how little comes from the city and how much comes from the school district as an autonomous unit.

To learn more about the education issues, look here http://thenotebook.org/taxonomy/term/71 .

To learn more about the mayor’s education goals, look here http://www.phila.gov/education/Pages/default.aspx .

Another eye opening experience I had was meeting with a man who does a lot of development work and worked for the city a long time ago. The conversation that we had was concerning to say the least. I asked some questions about what thought goes into making plans and development decisions around the ideas of gentrification. The response was along the lines that gentrification is not really an issue and that as a developer, he tells people in the communities that he is about to develop in that they should buy their homes so that they can sell them at a higher rate. He also quoted that if people are renting, they are transient populations anyway as the average time a person rents a place for in the city is 9 months. I had some difficulty comprehending that these responses could come from someone who is making and has made big decisions in the city. It is one thing to think of the positive side of gentrification which is an argument that has some warrant, but to deny that it has any effect on people’s lives is another issue. Also, intersectionality needs to be looked at to better break down the situation of renters in the city. Perhaps, as I would hypothesize, people who are wealthier renters are more transient than those who have less income and therefore have less ability to move at will. Finally, to think that people can just buy their homes is mind boggling to me. If people could afford to buy their homes, I believe that the might, but there is a much harsher reality that this person wants to deny a voice in the planning and development process. I believe that to deny is the easy way out that people use to justify their actions, but the harder route that is more just and right is to engage and find comprehensive solutions for not only developers and people moving into an area, but also people who have been living in an area for decades. I am glad that my eyes were opened to the fact that people who have power can have extremely uninformed ideas and views of the world. This is something that I would hope to combat in my lifetime.

On another note, 4th of July is the biggest holiday in Philadelphia as it is the birthplace of the nation. Every year there is the nation’s largest free concert on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. This year about 600,000 people showed up to see artists like John Mayer, Jill Scott, Neo, and The Roots and the scene was incredible. It made my heart light up to see so many people brought together with hope and pride in this country and this city. I have some footage that will be in the next video that I put up, but just know that it was an unreal sight.

Some other updates are that I finished researching the zoning for my first district and will be moving on to the next. I have also been given a lot more responsibility with siting in on design meetings, researching for a separate project that will be brought to city council on Roxborough, and designing an introduction card for my bosses boss to be sent out  to the heads of different departments and to members of the city council.

Sorry for late update. Work has been fun, but extremely hectic. Will get some more updates out soon, and one more video coming shortly. Until next time, keep your eyes open and take in what is going on around you. Life is a school.

National Dreamer Conference | USF Week 4, Shelby S.

Last week, I began working with some of the interns from the New York Metro area programs and doing some independent work in the office. I began research on a special program for the New York Metro Area to have a link on their website so that people interested in making in-kind donations can give frequent flyer miles. These types of donations would simplify transit for the “I Have A Dream” staff and Dreamers to the annual National Dreamer Conference in various cities throughout the United States.

This year’s conference was held at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado. My supervisors Thierry and Catherine went to the conference with other New York Metro Area staff and Dreamers. The National Dreamer Conference began in 2002. It is designed to expose middle school and high school Dreamers from our programs all across the nation to life on a college campus. Dreamers have the unique opportunity to interact with their peers, professors from the university, students, and even Dreamer alumni. A number of round table discussions are held to expose Dreamers to the college selection process, career options, leadership, public service, and oral communication. Pictured below are a few of the Dreamers at the conference last week in Boulder with my supervisors.


The conference is a wonderful tool to bring students to a campus and help them envision themselves in that space pursuing a degree. One key component of the Dreamer conference is the interaction between Dreamer alumni and current Dreamers.  Alumni support and involvement with the organization is crucial for maintaining a diverse body of mentors and offering students matchless motivation. Alumni have the power to engage with the students on a very personal level, having lived through the same challenges. They truly serve as living manifestations of possibility and have the power to uplift the students in a way that other authority figures and role models may not be able to. Exposing students to alumni of the program helps the students see for themselves the impact that the project can have. This incentivizes student participation and builds faith in the directives of their mentors and the “I Have A Dream” Foundation staff.

I remember my first time visiting Stanford. Although I only did a walk through tour and visited the book store, just being on a campus and understanding that it could potentially be my home for four years was magical. It was different and exciting; an experience that really got me thinking about how much a college decision could change my life. That moment of discovery and self-exploration is exactly why the work we do at the “I Have A Dream” Foundation is so important. All students deserve to feel like the world is at their fingertips.