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Members Show Their Support for D.C. Scholarship Fund

Members of Congress and the local business community will unite tonight to help inner-city D.C. high school students at the 7th Annual Hoop Dreams Congressional Reception.

The annual event begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Mansfield Room of the Capitol.

Susie Kay, a former American government teacher at H.D. Woodson High School, started the Hoop Dreams Scholarship Fund in 1996. The name, Hoop Dreams, was inspired by the popular documentary film of the same name made in 1994. The film follows the lives of two black youths struggling to become college basketball players.

Kay, a Rhode Island native, received a lot of support from the late Rhode Island Sen. John Chafee (R) and current Sen. Jack Reed (D) on her quest to build the fund. They offered to host what has become an annual Congressional reception to bring together current and past students and supporters to celebrate their achievements.

“It’s what we talk about, citizens not waiting for a governmental program but going out themselves and organizing themselves, it’s terrific,” said Reed, who is hosting this year’s reception. “A lot of the credit goes to Susie Kay, she’s a dynamic personality.”

The entire Rhode Island delegation has since become involved in the fund, in addition to Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.). All are scheduled to be at tonight’s reception.

The scholarship fund began as a one-day three-on-three basketball tournament to help Kay raise money to provide scholarships to her students. It has since grown to become a year-round nonprofit organization committed to expanding the academic and career horizons of D.C. public school students, many of whom would not have the chance to attend college otherwise.

“The Hoop Dreams Scholarship Fund became an extension of what I was doing at H.D. Woodson, which was trying to build bridges between local students and Capitol Hill staffers,” said Kay. “It works to make sure that all young people in Washington have the opportunity to pursue what is literally the American dream, the chance to have a good education and move forward in life.”

Since it began, Hoop Dreams has helped nearly 700 students go to college by providing scholarships totaling $2.5 million. More than 80 students have since achieved a college degree and are now returning as mentors and volunteers to usher in a new generation of college-bound students. Participants in the Hoop Dreams mentoring program had a college acceptance rate of 95 percent as compared to the average of 33 percent for nonparticipating D.C. public school students, according to the organization.

“For so many of our kids, they’ve grown up a few blocks away from the nation’s Capitol but they’ve never been there. That’s why it’s a really, really special night to get everybody together in [the Mansfield Room] and celebrate dreams,” Kay said.

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