U.S. Dream Academy & Southwest Airlines Present Lauren Harris with the 2019 Mentor of the Year Award at the 18th Annual Power of A Dream Gala

Described as “energetic, bright, positive and intentional” by Houston Dream Academy Learning Center Director Dipen Bhakta and Mentor Coordinator Walter Hull, Lauren Harris is currently a graduate student at the University of Texas School of Public Health and works at Change Happens, a nonprofit that teaches life skills to youth. Despite school and work, mentoring is a priority for Lauren. She found out about the U.S. Dream Academy while an undergraduate member of University of Houston’s Collegiate 100 and became a mentor in 2015. She was paired with Jasmine, then in the 2nd grade, and they bonded from the start.

Jasmine entered Dream Academy well below her grade level academically. Jasmine had recently moved in with her grandmother and three younger brothers, was withdrawn, and didn’t yet realize she had dyslexia, which impaired her reading ability. With Lauren’s encouragement, Jasmine’s reading improved significantly, and she is now on the honor roll. Currently in 6th grade, Jasmine has gained confidence, improved her social skills and come out of her shell. She also excels at basketball.

Dream Academy mentor Lauren Harris has built a strong friendship with mentee Jasmine

Lauren works in partnership with Jasmine’s grandmother to spend additional time with her outside of scheduled mentor hours. Lauren has taken Jasmine clothes shopping, a Beyoncé concert, a rodeo, the UNCF Youth Gala, and the HBCU College Fair. They also spend time together on holidays and birthdays. Lauren regularly attends Jasmine’s basketball games and used her network to have Jasmine once practice with Texas Southern University’s women’s basketball team. Lauren also enrolled her in Top Teens in America, in which Jasmine volunteers to help others.

U.S. Dream Academy Mentor Lauren Harris & mentee Jasmine

Jasmine’s grandmother believes Lauren is a “blessing to the family,” and is happy that she exposes Jasmine to so many experiences that she does not have time to do with three younger grandsons to care for.

A Houston native, Lauren credits her parents for modeling loving support, and always wanted to “pay it forward.” She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha and the Houston Area Urban League Young Professionals, and volunteers at H.E.R Community, which supports domestic violence survivors.

Upon hearing of her award, Lauren was modest: “I don’t do this for any accolades. It is the honor of my life to serve as her mentor.” Lauren also noted that “I did not get this award by myself, so I will not accept it alone.” Determined that Jasmine would join her, Lauren set up a GoFundMe campaign, and with major support from her sorority sisters she raised funds for both Jasmine and her grandmother to attend the gala.

U.S. Dream Academy DreamKid Jasmine & her grandmother

As far as Lauren is concerned, Jasmine is part of her village. The Dream Academy is fortunate that Lauren is part of our village and helping our youth to dream forward.

Lauren Harris received her 2019 Mentor of the Year award at U.S. Dream Academy’s 18th Annual Power of A Dream Gala that was held on May 8, 2019 in Washington, D.C. We appreciate the support of all of our corporate sponsors for the gala and their commitment to our youth mentoring program. We extend a special thank you to Amway, our title sponsor for the gala, and Southwest Airlines for their corporate sponsorship of the Mentor of the Year Award again this year.


You too can make a difference in the life of a young person. We are currently in need of 300 more mentors to provide guidance, support and encouragement to the Dream Kids in our learning centers across the country. If you are looking for a rewarding volunteer opportunity that will fulfill you, then sign up to be a Dream Mentor today!

As a mentor, we ask that you invest 1 hour per week with a child at one of our Dream Academy Learning Centers in Baltimore, Houston, Indianapolis, Orlando, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, San Bernardino and Washington, D.C. – We serve children in grades 2 – 12.