We’re a couple of finger sandwiches into high tea at the Hughes Center Park Towers when Blanca Machuca takes the podium. With emotion she talks about the tutoring and community service projects that opened her mind in ways that she couldn’t have imagined, about the program that allowed her to leave the 10-block radius of the public housing she lived in with her immediate and extended family. And how at age 5 she was already struggling in school.
Now 23, Machuca is one of the “dreamers” who was scooped up by the Las Vegas branch of the I Have a Dream Foundation, part of an effort to reverse the dropout rate in a specific demographic. Her 17-year journey with the charitable trust includes one lapse, created when her “overprotective” father pulled her out of the program, only allowing her to return after IHAD’s Lindsay Harper promised to pick Machuca up at the doorstep, stay with her the entire time and drive her home afterward.
That’s IHAD’s mission: follow-through. The thrust of the mentoring, tutoring and enrichment programs is to see students through to graduation. “It provided me with resources I did not have in every way,” says Machuca, who is now assistant project coordinator for IHAD Southern Nevada. Looking around the holiday tea party (hosted by the Dreamers and board member Patrick Duffy), which auctioned off items and introduced dreamers to potential donors, she told the audience that the dreamers seated at the tables will someday be helping other dreamers.
Considering the future, she added, “You could be sitting at a table next to a CEO, an artist, a doctor, lawyer or president.”