After coming to a harsh realization as a college student, Alvarado native Kam Phillips knew she wanted to change the lives of young children.
While at the University of Missouri, Phillips volunteered at her local Boys and Girls Club, KERA News’ Stella M. Chavez reported. There, she asked the center’s children a common question: “What do you wanna to be when you grow up?”
Phillips was surprised to hear the kids explain their aspirations to become famous figures and rappers, KERA reported. She realized the children’s exposure to the world was limited, and there was a way to fix that.
“You can only dream what you’ve seen,” Phillips told KERA. “So if you’ve never seen engineering or if you’ve never seen horses, then maybe you don’t know that that’s something that’s a possibility for you.”
In 2009, Phillips began a college organization at age 17 to teach children the possibilities of careers and ambitions which eventually blossomed into the nonprofit, Dream Outside the Box, KERA reported.
“You can only dream what you’ve seen.”
In 2012, the nonprofit moved its headquarters to Fort Worth to offer local young minds a chance to realize their full potential.
Now, its reach has grown to 10 college chapters around the country. In Texas alone, there are chapters at University of North Texas, Southern Methodist University, Texas Christian University, Southwestern University, and University of Texas at Austin. Other colleges range from University of Southern California to the University of Chicago.
Each chapter aligns with after-school programs in communities Phillips calls “dream deserts,” according to KERA. College volunteers lead hands-on activities to introduce students to different career fields. The nonprofit also introduced, Dream Delivered, a program delivering monthly career exploration boxes for children ages 6-10. Dream Outside the Box received a $15,000 boost for Dream Delivered last November as the top awardee at United Way of Tarrant County’s inaugural KERNEL LIVE! event.
Phillips grew up riding horses in Alvarado and had big dreams at a young age, KERA reported.
“Anything that I had an inkling to experience, whether that was horse judging or pageants or journalism camp, my parents really worked to foster and encourage that environment,” Phillips told KERA. “And there were no limits. You just couldn’t start something and then quit.”