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Wintley Phipps is a featured speaker/performer;
He has performed for American Presidents (including Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush), Mother Teresa, and President Nelson Mandela;
He has appeared on Robert Schuller’s Hour of Power, the Billy Graham crusades, Saturday Night Live, Oprah Winfrey Show, etc.;
Guest soloist for Diana Ross’ wedding;
M. Div., Andrews University;
Pastors Palm Bay Seventh-day Adventist Church, Palm Bay, FL;
Founder/CEO, U.S. Dream Academy, Columbia, MD, a non-profit organization working with children of prisoners, currently 11 locations nationwide;
Several CDs, his latest No Need To Fear (Discover/Hope Music, 2007)
Sons: Wintley, 27, Winston, 23 and Wade, 18.
A PASSION BEYOND MUSIC
When Wintley Phipps was on the board of directors for Chuck Colson’s ministry, Prison Fellowship, Wintley had the opportunity to be mentored by him. Wintley traveled with Chuck to various prisons around the country from 1992 to 1997. Once in Ridgeland, South Carolina, in 1994 Wintley looked around at the prisoners and had a wake-up call.
“They all looked like my sons,” says Wintley. “For a moment, I thought I was on a black college campus.”
That’s when the passion was born and Wintley began to study the problem. He discovered that nearly 2.8 million children live with a parent in prison today. Children with parents in prison are six times likely to end up in prison themselves. More than two-thirds of juveniles in the criminal justice system are family or children of prisoners. Eighty percent of the inmate population is composed of high school dropouts. High school dropouts are more likely to commit crimes and be incarcerated than those with more education.
Wintley says that children’s reactions to parental incarceration are affected by many factors, such as the age of the child, circumstances surrounding their parent’s crime, whether the child wintnessed the arrest, extended family support system, and a child’s coping ability. Many children experience depression, separation aniety, emotional withdrawal, guilt, diminished academic performance, disruptive behavior at home and school, fear, anxiety, sadness, and developmental delays such as language development, regression, etc.
“It’s a national crisis,” says Wintley. He says that when the family unit disintegrates, the children in the family need to be mentored. “A child with a dream is a child with a future,” he says.
In 1998, Wintley founded the U.S. Dream Academy.
“We aim to break the cycle of incarceration by giving children the skills and vision needed to lead productive and fulfilling lives,” says Wintley.
The target age group is third through eigth grade students. For the last 10 years, they have served over 1,500 students in neighbhorhoods where arrests and incarcerations are common occurrences and the local schools are not meeting federally mandated Adequate Yearly Progress. Currently, there are 11 Dream Academy Learning Centers nationwide that are located in communities with higher than average crime rates, lower than average graduation rates and high rates of poverty. The U.S. Dream Academy has garnered recognition from President George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Oprah Winfrey.
After school, selected Dream Academy students immediately begin their homework. Assisted by mentors and volunteers, children wrap up their assignments and are fed a nutritious meal that encompasses the four food groups. Typically, information sessions follow where kids are offered tips on avoiding peer pressure, etc. The Dream Academy Learning Centers support is free.
A PASSION FOR MUSIC
When Wintley was 14, his voice changed.
“All of a sudden I had this voice coming out of me,” he says.
Raised in a Christian home, Wintley always wanted to be a rock star.
“I was crushed when I found out that the lives my rock star heroes led wasn’t the life I wanted,” says Wintley. At 16, he made a decision to commit his life to Christ. “My heroes weren’t going anywhere,” he says. “I got on my knees and said, Whatever you want me to do, Lord, I’ll do."
Wintley gives a great music lesson with regard to the old Negro spiritual songs, such as "Swing Low Sweet Chariot," "Amazing Grace," etc. He says that the Negro slaves only knew the five black notes on a piano. He says they wrote the music and melodies to some of the greatest songs in the history of the Church using just the black notes.
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