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2024 DREAM Scholars: Where are they now?

News & Updates
July 1, 2024

DREAM Scholars are outstanding community college students selected through a rigorous application process to participate in Achieving the Dream’s annual conference and share their stories with an audience of thousands. 

Since February, the 2024 DREAM Scholars have continued to learn, lead, work, and make a difference in their communities. We caught up with four scholars to hear about their latest updates and to reflect on their most memorable experiences at DREAM in Orlando.

Ashley Ardis

Ashley Ardis continues to study accounting at Central Carolina Technical College while working two full-time jobs: mother and employee. In the “I Am From” poem that she shared at DREAM, Ashley said, “I am from … giving birth to my daughter, which in turn gave birth to my new life.” 

Ashley said her daughter was the primary inspiration for her poem. “I strive so hard to give her everything that I did not have,” she said, “but most importantly I want her to always remember that we are our own heroes.” 

Since the conference, she has been featured in the local paper and has shared her story with more members of her community. “I have also spoken with young single mothers at one of our local pregnancy centers to encourage them to continue school so that they can do this on their own,” she shared. 

Looking back on her time in Orlando, Ashley said it was valuable to realize that her story was worth telling. Her advice to students considering applying for the experience: “Raise their voice, tell their story, speak from the heart, and, most importantly, soak in the experiences because for me they were life-changing.”

Simphiwe Kunene was the first-ever DREAM Scholar from South Africa. He traveled all the way to Orlando to dive into the DREAM Scholar experience.  

As the first in his family to attend higher education, Simphiwe’s learning and leadership experiences at the University of the Free State have been defined by mutual support and empowerment. “I am … changing my own life while simultaneously changing the lives of all those around me,” he shared at DREAM. 

Simphiwe later told ATD that access to education remains one of the biggest challenges confronting marginalized communities in South Africa, and that a just higher education system must be built on a willingness to understand different student perspectives.  

“In my country we say, ‘Nothing for us without us,’ and that is perhaps the biggest lesson for colleges,” he said. “Involve us, be empathetic and cognizant of the fact that the realities of life are not the same for everyone.”  

Simphiwe graduated with a Bachelor of Education in April and is now working toward a master’s degree in higher education studies. He also met the U.S. Ambassador to South Africa, Dr. Reuben Brigety II, during the ambassador’s visit to the University of the Free State this spring.

Tamere Briley

Tamere Briley of Reynolds Community College spoke poignantly about her experience with both sides of the criminal justice system at DREAM — and shared her fierce determination to forge a new path. As she told the audience, “I am removing my face tattoos, working two part-time jobs, and maintaining a 3.6 GPA.” 

In sharing her poem, Tamere hoped to inspire others who have had similar experiences to her own. “To experience and overcome such trauma or tragedy and still have the mindset to continue to pursue a higher education and be successful is always an option,” Tamere said.  

While she encourages students to share their stories, Tamere also recognizes the importance of creating spaces in higher education where more people feel safe to do so. “I think the most important thing that community colleges can do to support their students is to have support groups on campus and to have a more supportive and inclusive campus culture,” she said. 

Tamere graduated this spring with an associate degree in criminal justice. She has been accepted to Virginia Commonwealth University, where she will pursue a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a concentration in forensic crime scene investigation, and plans to attend law school next. 

Victoria Robinson, who studied social work at South Central College, understands the importance of advocacy work. However, she told ATD that her experience at DREAM helped her grow as a champion and advocate for herself. 

Reflecting on both the power of using her voice and the importance of being her full self, she urged aspiring DREAM Scholars to be authentic and embrace their passions. 

“As a Latina navigating spaces where representation is scarce, I’ve often felt the need to adapt — to be someone I’m not,” Victoria said. “But authenticity is our greatest asset. Being a DREAM Scholar has taught me that staying true to my whole being is not only liberating but also essential for effecting meaningful change.” 

She has been accepted into her top choice for a Bachelor of Science in Social Work program and is excited for the next step. Looking to the future, she said, “Here’s to the next chapter where I become an official social worker, armed with knowledge, compassion, and the unwavering belief that change is possible.” 

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