The U.S. Dream Academy returned Monday with its annual fundraiser — held virtually for the first time due to the coronavirus health pandemic — continuing the nonprofit organization’s commitment to assisting children with incarcerated parents.

The 19th annual “Power of a Dream” Live cast Gala Celebration: Accelerate Dreams, presented by Amway, also featured “PowerUp Sessions” with leading experts and young leaders for a day of celebration, learning and connection.

The daylong events, free and open to the public, concluded with a virtual reception and program which kicked off at 6 p.m. and included surprise guests, lively music and giveaways.

Honorees included: General and Mrs. Colin L. Powell (founding chairman and board chair of America’s Promise Alliance) who received the Legacy Award; Terry Forde (Adventist HealthCare president/CEO) who received the President’s Award; and Alice Marie Johnson (criminal justice and prison reform advocate, a senior fellow with the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Right on Crime initiative and a former federal inmate who after 21 years in prison recently received a full pardon) who garnered the Dream Blazer Award.

The Southwest Airlines Mentor of the Year Award went to Taylor Vaughan from the U.S. Dream Academy Orlando Center while an 11th grader from Houston, Jasmine Russell, gave the keynote youth speaker address. This year’s honorees count as passionate advocates of equal justice, education, criminal justice reform and philanthropy, working to make a difference in their respective fields and in our communities.

PowerUp guest speakers included: Dr. Wintley Phipps, founder/CEO, U.S. Dream Academy; Diane Wallace Booker, Esq., chief strategy officer/executive vice president, U.S. Dream Academy; and Simon T. Bailey, speaker, author and consultant. Phipps, a Grammy nominee, also provided musical entertainment along with the award-winning Takoma Academy Chorale and the DreamKids – youth from after-school Dream Academy centers in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Members of the Honorary Congressional Committee for the gala included: Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Reps. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), Val Demings (D-Fla.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

The U.S. Dream Academy serves as a nationwide after-school mentoring and dream building program that has worked with more than 10,000 children, primarily with incarcerated parents, who live in underserved neighborhoods across the country. Since 2001, with the support of sponsors, the annual Power of a Dream Gala has raised more than $20 million dollars to assist with the provision of high-quality after-school programs specifically tailored for children living in high-risk communities.
Today, there are more than 700 young people in eight cities across this nation who benefit each day from evidence-based comprehensive youth development programming delivered through Dream Academy Learning Center Communities.

Dream Academy operates seven Learning Centers across the country in the District, Philadelphia, San Bernardino, Houston, Orlando, Salt Lake City and Baltimore – providing mentoring, in school tutoring, and now virtual learning programming that builds skills, character and dreams for vulnerable youth while developing transformative relationships with caring adult volunteer mentors.

Ultimately, Dream Academy seeks to remove barriers to economic mobility, break cycles of inherited poverty and possibly incarceration and promote overall well-being for the students and their families that they serve.

To register for the “Power of a Dream” Live cast Gala Celebration, go to or

Look for The Washington Informer’s interview as an update to this feature with the Academy’s highly-regarded leaders, Wintley Phipps and Diane Wallace Booker, Esq.

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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