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Baltic student advocates for deaf students, receives Dream Award

Mara Land
Mara Land(Dream Awards)
Published: May. 10, 2022 at 2:32 PM CDT
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MINNEAPOLIS, M.N. (Dakota News Now) - Twenty students have been selected nationally to receive Scholarship America’s 2022 Dream Award.

The Dream Award is Scholarship America’s renewable scholarship program for students with financial need, who have overcome significant barriers to make it to college, according to a press release.

“At a time when some students question whether getting a college education is worth the high cost, others are committed to overcoming those challenges. Our Dream Award scholars represent those remarkable students who persevere despite the hardships in their lives,” said Mike Nylund, president and CEO of Scholarship America. “They’re determined to meet their education and career goals and we’re committed to helping them attain those goals.”

Since the Dream Award began in 2014, more than $3.2 million in scholarships have been awarded to 150 students. The hardships that Dream Award scholars have overcome include personal and family illnesses, poverty, neglect, learning disabilities and homelessness. Seventy percent of recipients are the first in their families to attend college; 80 percent have contributed financially to their families’ income; and nearly one-third have served as caregivers while enrolled as students.

For two years, the Dreams to Success event to honor Dream Award students has been virtual, due to the pandemic. This year, the event returns to an in-person dinner, scholar stories and fundraiser on Thursday, June 16 at 7 p.m. EST, at the InterContinental—The Wharf in Washington D.C.

Officials say Mara Land, from Dell Rapids, S.D., is one of the twenty recipients of the Dream Award. Land‘s educational journey has been shaped by her hearing loss. As a young girl, she struggled to understand teachers, missed important information, and felt left out of conversations. When Mara and her mother started learning American Sign Language (ASL) through a deaf mentoring service, it opened up a whole new world of communication as well as a transformative experience of having a deaf role model for self-advocacy guidance. Learning ASL came quickly and naturally to Mara, but she still had to do all of her learning outside school; she estimates she traveled 30,000 miles for classes and lessons, and she had to fight school administrators who wanted to cut the budget for her ASL interpreter. The experience made her a passionate advocate for deaf students; today, Mara is following that passion by working toward a degree in communication studies at Gallaudet University, the nation’s premier university for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

Details on sponsoring/attending/viewing the event: scholarshipamerica.org/dreamstosuccess.

For a list of this year’s Dream Award scholars, click here.

About the Dream Award committee

The Dream Award selection committee is headed by Dr. Martha Kanter, Ed.D., CEO of College Promise and a senior fellow at the Steinhardt Institute for Higher Education Policy at New York University. Other committee members: David Croom, Associate Director, Postsecondary Success for Parents, Ascend—Aspen Institute; Gabriella “Gabby” Gomez, Deputy Director of U.S. Policy, Advocacy and Communications, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Kristin Hultquist, renowned national education expert and founding partner of HCM Strategists; Jim Larimore, Chief Officer for Equity in Learning, Riiid Labs; and Paola Santana, State Strategy Officer, Lumina Foundation.

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