One-On-One With Stephanie Trump On The Upcoming 24th ‘I Have A Dream’ Foundation Gala


The ‘I Have a Dream’ Foundation is a cause that has remained near and dear to the hearts of the Trump Family, developers and philanthropists behind the prestigious Acqualina Resort & Spa, Mansions at Acqualina, the upcoming Estates at Acqualina and more. For the 24th year, Stephanie, Jules and Eddie Trump will host the ‘I Have a Dream’ Foundation Miami Gala, taking place on Wednesday, October 30th, 2019 at the JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa. Additional and long-time supporting sponsors include Willis Towers Watson (title sponsor of this year), Coastal Construction, Acqualina Resort & Spa, Imperial Stone and Bank of America.

From its inception in 1995, the Trump family has remained dedicated to growing the Foundation throughout South Florida, which seeks to empower children from low-income areas to reach their educational and career goals by providing long-term programs of mentoring, tutoring and tuition assistance for higher education. Whether it’s developing after-school enrichment programs, college test tutoring, field trips to U.S. cities or internship opportunities, the Trump family and the Foundation to do everything in their power to give these students access to these opportunities. What’s truly special and unique about the program is that it guarantees the children’s academic tuition at a Florida state university for a four-year degree or at an accredited trade school.

In honor of the upcoming philanthropic event, we sat down with ‘I Have a Dream’ co-founder Stephanie Trump, who has spearheaded all of these initiatives over the years, to learn more about her work with the Foundation, its success, goals and what we can expect from this year’s upcoming gala.

HL: Tell us about your history with the ‘I Have a Dream’ Foundation.

ST: It was 1981 and we were living in New York at the time. We were watching 60 Minutes and it was covering this amazing piece showing Eugene Lang—who founded the ‘I Have a Dream’ Foundation—and it showed him giving a graduation speech at his alma mater in the Bronx. When he got there, the principal said to him, “You know of these students, only 15 or 20-percent of them will go on to graduate high school,” and he said, “That’s absolutely disgusting.” He threw away his fancy speech and looked at the parents and children and said, “You stay in school and I’ll send you to college.” And that’s really how the program began. I looked at my husband [Jules] and we both decided if we were ever in a position to do something like this, we would. So, fortunately, in 1994, we were in a position to do this. We were living in Miami and started the Miami Chapter. We had gone to New York, met with Eugene Lang, talked about what the program was and how to become involved, and that’s how this all came about.

HL: What about this Foundation spoke to you to become involved?

ST: I realized that in order to make a real difference for inner-city children, education was the only way to do it. With this program, you really feel that you’re changing the life of a child, and it has a domino effect because it may not be only the Dreamer you reach, but their siblings, cousins and children down the road.

HL: How did the Foundation evolve since its inception?

ST: We choose a school where at least 75-percent of the children are on the free lunch program—which means that you’re in the right socio-economic group. We take the whole grade in the school. The first one we picked was in Liberty City—the Charles R. Drew Elementary School. And we follow the same format as Eugene Lang—they stay in school and we pay for their college tuition. But, it’s more than that. You’re dealing with populations where, generally, it’s the first generation to go to college or even finish high school, so we have to do a lot for them to help make this happen. We do after-school tutoring four days a week, college tours, SAT/ACT prep—really whatever was needed to give them the tools to go on to college and become proud and productive citizens. We also highly recommend trade school. And we make sure that the students have safe environments at home, and if they’re in trouble, we step in to help move them to a better home. Many of these children come from very stressful environments, and not everyone thinks about that.

Stephanie Trump
Stephanie Trump

Photo Credit: ‘I Have a Dream’ Miami


HL: So, you take it a step further than just providing the students with education. You also give them a support system.

ST: Absolutely—and that’s the beauty of the program. It’s a wraparound—we call it a wraparound service because it’s everything. We give them the support they need and we act as the constant in their lives. We try to affirm them with positive words, rather than the negative ones they may have been used to. We tell them, “Of course, you are going to be successful and you can make your dreams come true. And if you want to be something, you can do it. You just have to work with us to be able to do it.” Jonas Severe and Adrienne Anthony are our project coordinators, and they are really the glue that keeps the program together. They are really on 24/7 call and they are always there for our Dreamers.

HL: Do you keep in touch with the students?

ST: Yes, we try to keep in touch as much as possible. Our first group of Dreamers graduated in 2005, and we had some amazing statistics because we started with 100 children and 97 of them reached 12th grade. 83 of them graduated on time, and we had over 56 who had gone on to either a two-year college, four-year college, military or trade school. Every now and then, I get calls from students saying they want to continue, which we love. Just recently, we helped one of our former students go on to nursing school. And when we do our Gala every year, we invite the Dreamers from the class of 2005 to come so they can meet our sponsors and the people who have been so generous over the years and learn from each other. We love to hear their success stories. In particular, two that come to mind are that we had one student move on to a wonderful position at Holland & Knight and another student was named ‘Teacher of the Year’ last year.

HL: Have you been doing the gala since you started?

ST: This is our 24th year, but we actually started with a golf tournament, when we owned the Williams Island golf course. We did the dinner at the Island Club on Williams Island, and had around 80 guests, which was phenomenal. However, it’s grown so much over the years and I’m proud to say that last year was our biggest gala ever. We raised over $900,000 and had over 700 guests. We’re so grateful for everyone’s support that has helped us get to this place.

HL: Do you have a particularly fond memory from the Galas over the past 24 years?

ST: I just remember feeling so inspired when the Dreamers came out on the stage at the gala and they did a skit, songs and dances. And watching everyone react to it is so overwhelming. It’s not your typical gala where it’s social and no one really knows what the organization is truly about. Here, they can see exactly where their money is going and feel proud of empowering these children. And most importantly, it’s so exciting and special for the Dreamers. I always hope there’s someone in the audience who becomes inspired as we were and says, “I want to start a program like this as well. Tell me what I need to do.”

HL: Is there anything special we can expect from this year’s gala? 

ST: This year is special because the Dreamers of our group are going into 12th grade. We will have them at the gala and they will stay. Usually, they go home after they’ve performed, but this year we’re going to have them stay and have a special moment on stage, which we can’t yet reveal!