Caitlin Dolan hopes to make a difference for underprivileged children in the Lowcountry.
In December 2018, Dolan, a sophomore majoring in early childhood education, founded Hope For A Future, a non-profit organization that aims to provide equal opportunities in education by providing low-income kindergarten students funding for college.
“We hope to be able to sponsor and care for these children and more for the rest of their educational careers,” says Dolan.
Hope For A Future is the result of Dolan’s passion for volunteering and community service. As a high school student in Lexington, South Carolina, Dolan, aided in hurricane clean-ups with her cheerleading team. She was also involved in various service organizations like Distributive Education Clubs of America, School Improvement Council and Beta Club.
“I have always loved to volunteer,” she says. “When I came to the College of Charleston, I had no doubt that I wanted to keep volunteering in my new community.”
As part of her involvement with the College’s Teaching Fellows program, Dolan was required to complete 30 hours of annual community service. She offered to volunteer at the College’s Early Childhood Development Center, but they did not need any extra hands.
“They ended up not needing any volunteers at the moment (which turned out to be a blessing), but they referred us to the pre-kindergarten class at Memminger Elementary School,” she says. “Once we got in contact with Jodi Gibson, the lead teacher, we set up a time to meet with her and eventually got involved with their program.”
That’s how Dolan started volunteering with Memminger’s three-year-old class. It was out of this experience of working with students in a high poverty school that she decided to launch her own nonprofit.
“Those sweet three year olds did not have the same hope or the same mentality as the more privileged children that I had worked with in the past,” Dolan remarks. “I see a light in them that I hope other people see, too.”
According to Dolan, the Bible verse Jeremiah 29:11 inspired Hope For A Future’s name and mission. The verse reads, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope for a future.”
“On one particular day I randomly turned to Jeremiah 29,” Dolan says. “By the time I got to verse 11 I had the whole nonprofit planned in my head.”
Hope For A Future fundraises to sponsor children in need. With the money that is raised, chosen students will accumulate a fund to go toward their college education. Dolan expects the program to sponsor its first group of kindergarten students for the 2020-21 school year. The goal is to add new kindergarten students into the program every year.
“The plan is to fundraise at least $7,500 by the 2020-2021 school year to give us a solid base for the scholarships,” says Dolan.
Fortunately, Dolan does not have to manage this nonprofit alone. She leads a team of three fellow CofC students: Jamie Jensen, a special education major who serves as the chief operating officer, Erin Hauptmann, a double major in German and supply chain management who serves as the marketing manager, and Megan Coon, an early childhood education major who serves as the director of fundraising. Dolan’s sister Kinsley Dolan, who currently attends high school in Lexington, South Carolina, serves as the organization’s director of fundraising, looking for fundraising opportunities outside of Charleston.
Hauptmann, a sophomore, became part of Hope For A Future because she believes in its mission.
“I wanted to get involved with Hope For A Future simply because I want to help make the world a better place and I care about the cause,” says Hauptmann. “Creating equal opportunities in education and giving Title I [low-income] school students a hope for their future will create a positive ripple effect throughout our world.”
Dolan believes that good things lie ahead for her nonprofit. One of her goals is to eventually expand Hope For A Future’s reach across more of the Lowcountry.
“Long Term, I would love to be in every [Charleston County School District] elementary school with mentorship programs and scholarships,” she says. “I would love to spread Hope For A Future into schools everywhere to help all Title I students know that they can have any future they want.”
To learn more about Hope For A Future visit the group’s website at hopeforafuturescholarships.com.
Featured image: Caitlin Dolan with two young Memminger Elementary students.