The Wash
Students from Killbuck Elementary School in Ohio participate in a 45 minute "flash chat" hosted by Dreamwakers. The nonprofit organization just launched in D.C. hoping to connect students to professional role models. (Courtesy of Dreamwakers)

Can tech give students from low-income families better, targeted professional development?

A new nonprofit organization in Shaw will help connect local students to professional role models through video chats, seeking to help low-income families who don’t have access to technology outside of the class.

Dreamwakers is a technology organization geared toward helping less-fortunate families around the world by allowing professionals to conduct class lessons through Google Hangout and Skype.

Students in fourth grade through twelfth grade participate in 45-minute virtual sessions called “flash chats.”

During these flash chats, professionals around the world call in to speak to students and give them advice to advance their careers. Professionals from the State Department, the White House and other major institutions in the District speak with students, giving them the opportunity to ask questions they may not otherwise have the chance to ask.

Dreamwakers does this by filling a disparity in education caused by lack of technology in many low-income areas, its research shows.

Dreamwakers saw that only 9% of children from America’s poorest families graduate from college. Less than half of U.S. students feel they are properly prepared or educated for some professions.

According to the Pew Research Center, studies show that teens from lower-income households are specifically impacted by not having access to technology, affecting homework and grades.

The research also showed that in 2015, at least 35% of kids in low-income areas did not have access to broadband or any type of internet, interfering with the completion of homework.

Lack of access to laptops and the internet limit many children in advancing their careers, but this organization is hoping to change that.

Jillian Scott, the organization’s executive director, said Dreamwakers is eager to create change in the Shaw neighborhood, giving students the opportunity to learn despite what they have or where they are.

“The overarching goal for this program is that geography does not limit any child to learning or advancing in something they love, and we plan to do just that in D.C,” Scott said.

Monica Logothetis and Annie Medaglia founded Dreamwakers in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2014 to use video technology to connect kids with professionals around the world. Since that time, Dreamwakers has grown to serve over 15,000 students in more than 38 states.

DreamPartners, a network of organizations that partner with Dreamwakers, consists of JetBlue, L’oreal, Toyota, NASA, theUnited States Institute of Peace, Athletes for Hope and more.

These companies have allowed Dreamwakers to grow virtually, but it opened many doors for professional speakers to talk with children about their futures and the steps they will take to get there.

While technology is becoming a part of everyday life, many residents like Jaelin McDonald said this is the right time for an organization like Dreamwakers to open in this area.

“The fact that they have opened something like this in the area can really help kids focus on achieving their goals,” McDonald said.

Shaw resident Terrell Peterson said this is a “brilliant” idea for the Shaw neighborhood and children, specifically, because of the increasing amount of low-income families in the area.

“I have been in D.C. all my life and I continue to see so many families struggle because of gentrification,” Peterson said.

“Technology is the new thing and it’s good that this organization is using that to teach students.”


Kayla Clarke

I am a multimedia journalist based in Washington, D.C., with a passion for innovative methods such as infographics and design. I am pursuing my Master's degree at American University in journalism and public affairs.

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