Learning Change Agent: Kelli Haywood


What is your name? Kelli Haywood

Where are you from? Kansas City, Missouri; currently resides in Chicago, Illinois

What organization do you represent? Dream On Education

What is your job title? Founder and Executive Director

How long has the organization been in existence? 3 years

What is the mission and vision of the organization?

The mission of Dream On Education is to provide enrichment services to top performing sixth to eighth grade students in low-income communities. Those services include tutoring, mentoring career and culture exposure.  In many of the affluent areas throughout the country there are a lot of resources that are available, and in low-income communities, that’s not the case. Dream On Education’s mission is to right this imbalance so that no child’s dream is neglected simply because of their socioeconomic status.   Therefore, our mission is to bridge gaps and provide rich opportunities to students who wouldn’t normally have access to such resources.

What impact do you think your organization has on learning and education?

The impact that Dream On Education has on learning and education is that we provide resources to students who wouldn’t normally have access to tutoring, mentoring and career and cultural exposure. So it’s not just students knowing textbook-based or traditional education, it’s really about exposure to new forms of art, learning, expression and so forth.  Really, our impact is developing well-rounded students, and moreover, well rounded citizens and contributors to society.

What inspired you to get involved in this type of education field?

What inspired me to get involved in education is that both of my parents are first-generation college graduates.  Many of the opportunities that were afforded to both my sister and myself were direct results of their commitment to education. Many people that I grew up around, whether they were family members or friends, were extremely bright and talented; but they simply just lacked the resources to get from one environment to an environment that would allow them to actualize their dreams and maximize their potential. I’ve known for many years that I wanted to do something education related and something that will really make a difference.

Interviewer: Tell me a little bit more about how Dream On got started.

Dream On is something that I’ve known that I wanted to do for quite some time. I interned in college with Sprint and Nextel in their community relations department and that’s when I really, for the first time, was able to see that, in business, you can really make a difference.  I also knew that business was something that I was passionate about and I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit.  I’ve known, for quite some time, that I also wanted to provide resources for those who didn’t have them. So, Dream On was just an opportunity for me to mesh all of the things that I was most passionate about.

How I started Dream on Education? I met with several schools; a little over thirty schools, and told them my vision.  I asked the representatives from these schools if they felt that Dream On Education could fulfill critical needs both in the school and the surrounding community. From these interactions, I determined which schools Dream On Education could have the most impact.

If you can change anything regarding education and/or learning, what would it be?

There are two things. One would be equal access to resources.  You know, we don’t get to pick the families into which we’re born. There are students who want to do well, who have the capacity to do well, and just lack resources and exposure to experiences that would lead to their success.  The other thing would be how students learn.  I don’t think that learning from a textbook or just writing things down is always the best way to learn or to test how a student has learned.  Learning should be fun. Learning should be something that’s active and interactive. I always loved learning as a child, but I believe that I would have loved it even more if I were able to express myself a bit more and be an active learner. I think that a lot of children are that way.  So, those are two things that I would change about education.

What advice would you give to someone who is in the process of learning something new?

I would definitely say be open-minded. I think that when we learn as a child or as adults, there’s always that fear of failure. We are afraid of something that’s unknown.  I think that being open minded and understanding the learning process increases one’s opportunity to learn. I believe in looking at the big picture and understanding that you’re building towards something, if you are courageous.

Interviewer: So, it’s important to take the risk?

Yeah, it’s important to take the risk. To understand that [a task] might not be easy at the beginning, but that doesn’t mean that in a number of months, years or so on, you might be a master at whatever it is that you’re learning.  I believe we all have the capacity to successfully accomplish challenging tasks. It’s just a matter of focusing and seeing oneself through the challenge.

 What does it mean to be a learning change agent?

I think it means to be passionate about whatever area of learning it is that you’re focusing on. Whether one realizes it or not, one is directly affected by what one does or don’t do.  Moreover, you can have all of the theories and plans in the world, but what it all boils down to is people and understanding that there is a sense of responsibility.  Understanding that [learning] is a process, that you’re always growing, you’re educating yourself and those around you.

Photo Credit: Sofia Kerpa, VerLuxe

Learning Change Agents are game changers in education. They are affiliated with organizations that are providing meaningful and passion-driven learning experiences to learners of all ages. The featured Learning Change Agents (and their organization) will be eligible to receive funds from the LEARNtheBrand Impact Apparel. LEARNtheBrand Impact Apparel is a clothing line that consists of limited edition fashion T-shirts that include unique designs that focus on rebranding the perception of learning and education from test-driven and rote memorization to meaningful, relevant and passion driven learning experiences.  Customers and supporters of LEARNtheBrand Impact Apparel and these organizations will select the organization(s) that should receive a portion of the profits received from each collection. Visit and shop the online store hosted by Threadless. Together we are change agents.


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