Once upon a time not so long ago, America was known around the world as the land of opportunity. Many of the Founders, immigrants themselves, had much to lose as they took great pains to set in motion a “grand experiment” unlike anything the world would ever know.
“We hold these truths to be self evident,” reads the Declaration of Independence, signed by 56 brave men on the afternoon of July 4, 1776, “that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…”
Why would so many men — farmers, merchants, landowners, ministers, doctors, judges, lawyers and even teenagers — risk their lives and fortunes to secure such a gift for future generations? The Founders knew what it meant to live under the grip of tyranny, and they dreamed of a better future for generations yet unborn.
When Robert and Kathleen Basmadjian first penned the words to their 2012 book, “Abraham’s Journey: A Celebration of the American Dream,”, it was language of America’s founding documents that inspired them. Over time, they realized that children today aren’t being taught what makes America so unique, and what it means to pursue and achieve the “American dream.” Through Abraham’s story, they successfully paint the portrait of a young boy who took a journey back in time, visited with many historical figures who overcame great adversity to achieve their dreams, and in the process, discovered his own “American dream.”
Facebook: Inspiring the American Dream Foundation Facebook
Once they wrote the book, however, the Basmadjians soon discovered much more work needed to be done. Parents, teachers and students loved learning about Abraham’s journey, but when they asked for feedback, requests for a more in-depth learning experience for children came rolling in.
On March 8, 2013, the Basmadjians launched the “Inspiring the American Dream Educational Initiative” at Public School 131 in Boro Park, Brooklyn, a school attended mostly by first-generation Americans from places like Armenia, Bangladesh, Colombia, China, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, India, Pakistan, Taiwan, Venezuela and Yemen. There, the authors spoke to the young audience about opportunity and what it means to live the American dream. They completed the visit with an essay contest, and later published the winning essay on their website.
“We wanted to assure young children that America is still the land of opportunity, and that the American dream is still within their reach,” the Basmadjians told Opportunity Lives.
They began looking for a way to further inspire children to discover and aspire to achieve their own American dreams, which is how the Inspiring the American Dream Foundation (ITADF) came to be. The Inspiring the American Dream Foundation launched in December 2013 as a 501(c)(3) public charity in South Carolina, and Robert and Kathleen Basmadjian’s own dream of further inspiring young people became a reality.
“We wanted to assure young children that America is still the land of opportunity, and that the American dream is still within their reach”
The foundation’s mission is “to help inspire children and young adults to achieve the American Dream, a set of ideals in which freedom, ability and virtue provide the opportunity for prosperity, happiness and upward mobility, regardless of race, ethnicity or social class.”
By teaching children about the American dream in a fun and interactive way, sharing the skills and character traits they need to become productive members of society, ITADF shows students that with hard work, determination and perseverance, the power to pursue and achieve their own goals and dreams is completely within reach.
In an article for the Greenville, S.C. Chamber of Commerce blog, Robert Basmadjian explained the role a strong educational foundation plays in the life of a child.
“American public education is a core institution for teaching our children the skills necessary to graduate and pursue a successful and rewarding career,” he wrote. “Our democracy and economic well-being cannot exist without an educated and responsible citizenry.” The problem, he went on to explain, is that American children today often don’t possess even the most basic reading, writing and technology skills they need to be competitive in the marketplace. That’s where ITADF can help.
Studies show that for a child to succeed academically and beyond, early literacy development — mainly between preschool and 6th grade — is imperative. Inspiring the American Dream Foundation developed a program it calls Opportunity to Succeed, not only to teach young children basic reading skills, but also to incorporate character development, a key element in rearing children that possess “integrity, honesty, and personal responsibility.” This, says Basmadjian, is the winning combination that will give children the tools they need to achieve the American dream.
Photo: Inspiring the American Dream Foundation Facebook page
The ITADF Opportunity to Succeed program launched in February. Its pilot, financed through a grant from Dabo’s All-In Team Foundation, was successfully tested at A.R. Lewis Elementary School in Pickens, S.C. as an after school reading camp for 3rd graders.
The ITADF Opportunity to Succeed Reading Camp curriculum was recently incorporated into the state-mandated summer reading camps for Pickens County, and included approximately 150 students in 16 schools. ITADF says it hopes to roll out the program for an additional 10 elementary schools in another school district this coming year.
The foundation also recently announced the addition of the Opportunity to Succeed Read-A-Thon, a competition for 3rd graders that will begin during the second half of the 2015-2016 school year in select Upstate South Carolina schools.
“What Bob and Kathy are doing is instrumental in guiding young minds to think about their futures, and how they are the sole navigators of the journey into realizing their fullest potential,” former PS131 Pre-K teacher and current ITADF board member Rosa Leonetti told Opportunity Lives.
America’s Founders would be proud of the efforts by the Inspiring the American Dream Foundation. The Basmadjians are teaching America’s future leaders the meaning of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Tami Nantz is a contributor for Opportunity Lives and editor-in-chief for Smart Girl Politics, an online community for conservative women. She lives in Linden, Virginia with her husband and daughter. You can follow Tami on Twitter @TamiNantz.