Keeper Of The Dream

FREDONIA – The Keeper of the Dream Scholarship and Leadership Program at SUNY Fredonia has gained statewide acclaim, receiving the SUNY Outstanding Student Affairs Program Award in the multicultural/diversity category at the recent meeting of the Council of Chief Student Affairs Officers and Office of University Life and Enrollment Management in Syracuse.

David Herman, vice president for student affairs, said he and Monica White, associate vice president for student affairs, were delighted to accept the award on behalf of Keeper of the Dream scholars who have been responsible for the program’s success over the last 10 years.

“This is about them. It’s really about the success they have brought to the program through hard work, academic achievement, community service and the kinds of leaders they have become,” Herman said. “These students have provided tremendous leadership to a variety of campus organizations.”

The Office of Student Affairs launched the Keeper of the Dream Scholarship and Leadership Program in 2002 to increase recruitment, retention and graduation rates of students in general at SUNY Fredonia, with a specific focus on African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans and Native American students. It is designed to nurture students with strong academic records, leadership experience in multicultural groups and a commitment to making a positive contribution to the campus and community.

Based on similar initiatives at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and Oakland University in Michigan, the Keeper of the Dream Scholarship and Leadership Program is rooted in the core concepts of learning and sharing information; mentoring; family involvement; leadership development; scholarship; and community service.

“What makes the program unique is that we blended scholarship and leadership activities,” Herman explained, instead of concentrating primarily on academics. “The students write an essay at the end of their senior year, and many of them say that one of the reasons they came to Fredonia was because the scholarship required them to give something back in the form of leadership and community service.”

Graduation rates among KOD scholars – 69 percent are awarded degrees after four years, 81 percent within six years – exceed the university average. Four students are typically accepted into the program each year based on high school academics, leadership experience and written essay on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream for equality and their own commitment to pursue that dream.

Renewable scholarships have been awarded to 49 students accepted into the program since its beginning. Scholars have earned the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence and the Lanford Presidential Prize, and they have served as class presidents, resident assistants and college ambassadors. Several scholars have been inducted into the Alma Mater Society, and two students were captains of athletic teams. One of the scholars became an NCAA Division III national champion in track and field.

All Keeper of the Dream graduates are either gainfully employed or attending graduate school, and two have gone on to doctorate programs.

The Office of Student Affairs stays in regular contact with many KOD graduates, including Melody Jones, who works in the recording industry in New York City. “She raves about her experience with the Keeper of the Dream program,” White said, and will return to campus in February to meet with current KOD students.

“Everyone at Fredonia has been so supportive of this program; it really has become part of our campus culture,” Herman said.

The Fredonia College Foundation, through the University Advancement division, works in conjunction with Student Affairs to raise funds to meet the program’s annual costs.

“Both individuals and organizations actively support the KOD scholarships when we seek contributions,” said Dave Tiffany, executive director. “The leadership component, the active mentoring of freshmen in the program by juniors and seniors, community service, the high graduation rate, and success by program alumni encourage gifts to support current KOD students,” explained Tiffany.