About Dare to Dream: Get Educated!

Mission and Vision
Dare to Dream: Get Educated! works with middle school and high school Latinas to encourage and support their efforts to graduate from high school, to encourage college enrollment, and to introduce them to college and career role models. Today, about one in four students are Latina, a growth trend predicted to continue in the near future. As young Latinas, our participants face a number of obstacles including gender discrimination, racism, and economic hardships. We believe in tackling obstacles that Latinas face in their path to higher education. We work on initiatives that aid young Latina students in overcoming these obstacles by hosting two annual conferences, creating financial aid scholarships, and developing family based programming. We believe that as our communities evolve and diversify it is important to highlight the importance of higher education as the key to leading a successful and fulfilling life. The Latina students we serve are mainly concentrated in DuPage and suburban Cook counties, communities in which Latino populations are increasing at exponential rates. As new research emerges we are dedicated to tailor our strategies to effectively prepare our participants to face an ever changing world.
The year 2017 marks the ninth annual Dare to Dream: Get Educated! Conference, but its origins stretch farther back to 2007. Connie Baker and Dorothy Valintis were attending the AAUW (American Association of University Women) National Conference in Phoenix AZ; in the process of networking, they came across a group of AAUW women from CA who had done something similar with great success.
Inspired by these women and the results of their program, Connie and Dorothy brought the idea back to their Elmhurst branch. They invited AAUW women in the Lombard, Wheaton-Glen Ellyn, and Downers Grove Area Branches to join with them to explore implementing such a conference in DuPage County. Aided by generous grants from the AAUW national association, AAUW Illinois and the four participating branches, the first conference took place at Elmhurst College in April, 2009. We started with 7 school districts and 105 girls.  225 girls and 153 moms participated in the 2012 conference. Some years we have had to turn girls away for lack of space. Currently we rent the Belushi Performance Hall at the McAninch Arts Center at College of DuPage, and fill every seat with almost 800 girls, moms, teachers and volunteers.
The Conference itself is only one day in the lives of these girls—a powerful day with lingering effects. There have been some wonderful follow-up activities for the girls to keep them dreaming big, such as the annual STEM conference, currently held at Fermilab, and previously at Elmhurst College, to encourage the girls to try themselves out in science and technology. Perhaps the best follow up is what takes place in some of the schools the girls attend—study groups, clubs, aggressive counseling and advising. In 2013, the first class of Dare to Dream alumnae graduated from high school. In Leyden High School where John Back had been counseling the D2D girls, he estimated that 20 of the 22 girls who attended the conference had applied to 4 year colleges. Quite an impressive number!