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Office Depot Foundation 'Dream UP' Program Inspires Middle School Students to Focus on Future Careers - Oct. 24, 2013

Aspiring Aeronautical Engineer, CPA and Writer are Latest Essay Challenge Winners in Program Presented with USA TODAY Charitable Foundation - Oct. 24, 2013

BOCA RATON, Fla., Oct. 24 /CSRwire/ - A future network news anchor, groundbreaking scientist or even President of the United States might be sitting in a middle school classroom right now. Thanks to the Office Depot Foundation Dream UP Career ExplorationOffice-Depot-Fdn-photo Program, these students and thousands more like them are finding the inspiration – and the knowledge – they need to attain their future career goals.

This semester, approximately 23,000 students attending more than 90 schools in 14 states are setting their sights on the future by participating in the Dream UP Program, which is offered to middle school teachers at no cost by the Office Depot Foundation − the independent, non-profit foundation that serves as the primary charitable giving arm of Office Depot, Inc. (NYSE: ODP) – in collaboration with the USA TODAY Charitable Foundation.

Also this fall, three Dream UP Essay Challenge winners from the spring 2013 semester completed their “dream job” mentoring experiences. They include:

  • Jason Blake Warrens, Allen Central Middle School, Eastern, Ky. – The aspiring aerospace engineer spent a day with the Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education that included visits to Frankfort High School Aerospace Academy, NASA Kentucky and the University of Kentucky College of Engineering. (Teacher: Sandra Stapleton)
  • Allison Kerce, Coral Springs Middle School, Coral Springs, Fla. – With a clear goal of becoming a Certified Public Accountant, Allison attended the Annual Accounting Show in Fort Lauderdale as a guest of the Florida Institute of CPAs. (Teacher: Suzanne Fronrath)
  • Samantha Bonnin, Coral Springs Middle School, Coral Springs, Fla. – Samantha, who wants to be a writer, participated in the National Day on Writing celebration at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton and spent time with Department of English faculty members. (Teacher: Suzanne Fronrath)

Other Dream UP students in the spring semester imagined and wrote about careers as a veterinarian, singer, animator, money manager, pastor, author and experimental physicist – big dreams for middle school students who might still be more than five years away from high school graduation.

Since its introduction in 2009, approximately 90,000 young people across the country have examined future career opportunities through the Dream UP program, which seeks to address the alarming problem of middle school students dropping out of school. “By giving middle school students the tools and resources to begin to consider career opportunities, establish long-term goals, and dream about what they might become in the future, we’re helping to keep students in the classroom, rather than losing them to the streets,” said Office Depot Foundation President Mary Wong.

Using the Dream UP project-based curriculum, students study current workplace trends, reading and analyzing the latest industry news from USA TODAY to identify career opportunities and understand professional requirements. Through Dream UP, students research several career options and develop a career portfolio. The project culminates with students selecting and writing essays about the professions that most intrigue and inspire them. Schools select the best essays to submit to the national Dream UP Essay Challenge and, each semester, several student winners are given the opportunity to liveSamantha_Bonnin_-_Dream_UPtheir “dream job” for a day.

Students, parents and teachers alike praise the program.

“The CPA convention that I attended was a very eye-opening experience,” said Allison Kerce, the Coral Springs Middle School student. “It enabled me to get an inside look at the job I plan on doing when I become an adult. I learned how the profession is changing. People now want shorter explanations that are more relatable. By knowing this, I can hone my skills to improve these characteristics as I continue on in my academic journey.”

Allison’s father, David, echoed his daughter’s enthusiasm. “Allison came away from this experience having a better understanding of where she’s going and what she will become in life,” he said. “She thoroughly enjoyed herself and looks forward to following her dreams.”

Kim Guy, a teacher at Golda Meir School in Milwaukee, observed, “As a teacher for seventh and eighth grade, discussing career options with my students definitely expanded their understanding. I have strongly emphasized to my students that ANYTHING is possible. Whatever their dreams are, they can do it. I've always felt that I sounded like a 'cliché' when preaching to them. This curriculum and contest made believers out of my students. The essay contest was definitely a motivator; however, the lesson plans provided an opportunity for my students to THINK about career options differently than they ever have before.”

To learn more about Dream UP, visit

About the Office Depot Foundation
The Office Depot Foundation is an independent foundation − tax exempt under IRC Sec. 501(c)(3) − that serves as the independent charitable giving arm of Office Depot, Inc. In keeping with its mission, Listen Learn Care®, the Foundation supports a variety of programs that give children tools to succeed in school and in life; build the capacity of non-profit organizations through collaboration and innovation; and help communities prepare for disasters, as well as recovering and rebuilding afterwards. For more information, visit

About the USA TODAY Charitable Foundation
The USA TODAY Charitable Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, supports and builds alliances that enhance innovative instructional programs and community outreach by providing the resources to promote opportunities and inspire all. It welcomes participation in efforts to engage, enlighten and inspire today’s students and educators by opening their classrooms to the real world. The Foundation seeks funding from other foundations, private companies and organizations to help provide educational programs for elementary, secondary schools, community colleges and/or programs in specific disciplines or curriculum areas. Staff work with interested parties to collaborate on the creation of an educational program that meets the mission and goals for respective companies or organizations.


Oct. 24, 2013