Earlier this year, I received a letter that caused me to pause and reflect on the legacy created by my parents — Stewart and Jane Bainum — and carried on by the Foundation today. In so many ways, it captured the essence of our 50th anniversary year, which concludes at the end of December. The letter was written by Tenille Warren, a participant in the “I Have a Dream” program sponsored by the Foundation from 1988 to 1994. The program was launched at Kramer Junior High School in Anacostia, a neighborhood in southeast D.C. devastated by the crack cocaine epidemic, where most students lived below the poverty line and the school’s standardized test scores lagged all but two other District schools.
My parents strongly believed in education as a pathway out of poverty, and because of their own experiences growing up poor, their belief was propelled by a very real passion. Through this highly regarded program, my parents promised college scholarships upon completion of high school to nearly 70 rising seventh-grade students. Tenille Warren was one of them. And through hard work and great tenacity, she graduated from high school and went on to pursue a career that capitalized on her amazing artistic gifts.
The lessons we learned through our experience with the Dreamers continues to shape our work today. As Tenille so eloquently puts it, and as other Dreamers have told us as well, the impact of this program is still very much felt by participants, and their desire for education and a better life is being passed on to their own children beautifully capturing our 50th anniversary theme, “Impact Across Generations.”
With Tenille’s permission, I am pleased to share with you her letter below.
Barbara Bainum, President, CEO and Chair of the Board for the Bainum Family Foundation
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As I considered 2018 marking the 50th anniversary of the Bainum Family Foundation, I thought it not only timely, appropriate and honorable, but most importantly necessary to share how the Bainum family has truly created positive and lasting change in my life. 2018 also marks the year I decided that I would no longer be afraid or ashamed to believe in my dreams. I would not be afraid to talk, walk, plan, prepare, finance or fail for my dreams. I’ve learned that you have to be very intentional about who and what you select to invest your time, mind, heart, knowledge, talents and money in. Mr. Bainum made a great investment when he chose to invest in me. But at the time, even I didn’t know the impact bringing our lives together would have in the many years following. I was much too young and too troubled to fathom the ultimate plan. Today, not only am I an alumni Dreamer, but I’m also a philanthropist, community activist, youth mentor, life stylist and an artist who follows her dreams.
I always had this unspoken gift surrounding me and the feeling that the plans for my future were bigger than my unfortunate circumstances. While my mom had few ambitions and expressed very little hope for her own life, she always believed in the artist in me. I am art to my mom. Then, one day, that unspoken gift came into full form by way of the I Have A Dream program. A little bit of hope in the midst of a whole lot of despair can create great possibilities for the next generation.
As a child, I didn’t have the vision to see what Stewart Bainum could see. At least that’s what I thought. It wasn’t until I was well into adulthood that I understood what I was doing all those years with my pencils, paints, socks and crayons. I was creating my dreams. It wasn’t until I was in the earlier years of my adulthood that I understood why Mr. Bumbaugh was so persistent that I not only get an education, but that I get an arts education — an education unique to my design.
“When the Dreamers program found me, I was in my room trying to create a world different from the world I was seeing.”
When the Dreamers program found me, I was in my room trying to create a world different from the world I was seeing. But as a child, this kind of imagination had no power. Well, so I thought. In my room, I wasn’t only creating my own dreams. I was putting into place tools of purpose, passion and prosperity for a new generation. I was unaware of the seeds that were being planted for my dreams through Mr. Bainum’s own life experiences and his insatiable desire to give a life of new experiences and opportunities to these random unknown kids.
On this 50th anniversary, I wish I could tell him how much his investment in our lives truly mattered and how truly grateful I am for the lives, sacrifices, struggles and dreams of all the people who continue to build up the Bainum Family Foundation. The Dreamers program went beyond having a mission of accomplishing tasks and goals. It led to a ridiculously extraordinary and most unexpected discovery of my greatest self. It is the discovery of my purpose, my passion and my relentless spirit that drive my efforts to keep the dreams of so many great people alive. It is the continuance of a dream affecting many dreams that creates a person’s legacy, and this is a legacy worth celebrating.
Happy 50th anniversary, Bainum Family Foundation! Thank you all for believing in me when I didn’t know how to believe in myself.