students in library

URBANA, Ill. – It started with a warm up activity at Hutsonville High School in Crawford County, Illinois. Students were asked to list as many future goals and dreams as they could. One high school senior returned the next day with 249 goals. 

“At first, I thought this was the stupidest idea ever,” the young man told the instructor. “Then, the weirdest thing happened; one idea led to another idea, which led to another idea, and all of a sudden, I had this huge list of dreams that I forgot I used to be excited about.” 

His comment made an impact on Tiffany Macke, community development educator with University of Illinois serving Clark, Crawford and Edgar counties. "He's 17 years old, and already talking about things he used to be excited about," said Macke. She responded by creating a program to encourage dreaming, planning, and goalsetting at every age.  

Listing your dreams is one thing; achieving them requires guidance and goalsetting. Research indicates that students who set achievable goals in pursuit of a larger dream are more likely to have increased motivation and academic success, which in turn leads to better career opportunities and success in one’s personal and professional life.

To help students turn dreams into goals, Macke created a “Community Dream Team,” a group of school district administrators, teachers, and local community leaders who understand the power of proactive dreaming and goalsetting.  

With feedback from students and community leaders, Macke developed the iDREAM - iCREATE curriculum for K-12 and piloted it in the Marshall School District in Clark County. Community Dream Team members facilitate activities and discussion in the classroom. Activities require one or two class periods, depending on the grade level. The iDREAM - iCREATE activities reach each of Marshall’s 1,200 students annually.

The iDREAM program helps youth and adults develop dreams and establish goals. This comprehensive approach helps create a culture and a habit of dreaming and planning to turn ideas into reality. iCREATE is a complementary program, helping youth and adults navigate the world of creativity and entrepreneurship.

"This comprehensive approach helps us understand that everyone is entrepreneurial, and why that is important," Macke says. Activities focus on creativity, entrepreneurial characteristics, soft skills, and branding, and how to apply those ideas in one’s personal and professional life.

instructor with youth

During the COVID-19 restrictions, Marshall schools limited visitors to their classrooms. Superintendent Kevin Ross said the iDREAM -iCREATE program is so valuable it would be one of the first community programs allowed back into classrooms. Starting in November of 2020, Marshall Dream Team members were able to interact with students once again.

In 2019, the Litchfield School District was the first school to implement the iDREAM -iCREATE program after the pilot. The Litchfield Dream Team reach 624 students in their first year.

“Litchfield students, teachers, and administrators excitedly embraced the iDREAM curriculum,” says Superintendent David Lett. “It was clear the students enjoyed the lessons and that they were helpful in providing clearer direction on their future career pathway.”

“It was great to know that the school felt this is such a valuable program that they worked with me to come up with a safe way to present it online,” said Valerie Belusko, Extension community development program coordinator serving Christian, Jersey, Macoupin, and Montgomery counties. “We are making iDREAM - iCREATE a priority because we believe it will be instrumental in helping us shape a positive future for our children, while building our workforce.”   

Macke hopes to inspire other school districts and communities to dream big and create a culture of dreaming, planning, and goal setting. “My dream is to help create a workforce and community of happy, successful people who have the knowledge and the tools to realize and work toward their passions, interests and skills,” said Macke. “I hope this programing can help individuals and communities not just survive, but thrive.” 

SOURCETiffany Macke, Community and Economic Development Educator, University of Illinois Extension 
WRITERLinda Hughes-Kirchubel, Communications Coordinator, University of Illinois Extension 

ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.