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Graduation flowers at DePaul made possible by Flowers for Dreams

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College graduations are often accompanied by caps, gowns and diplomas. But at DePaul University, there was more than people could have expected.

At its 2014 Commencement ceremony, for the third year in a row, DePaul worked with Flowers for Dreams, an innovative floral service that sells bouquets to graduates and their families outside the ceremony. Purchasers have many options. For example, a dozen rose bouquet, Hawaiian-style leis and orchids. They also have a special DePaul bouquet with lots of red and blue flowers.

To date, Chicago area educational institutions, including Loyola University Chicago, DePaul, Robert Morris Univeristy, and North Central, have invited Flowers for Dreams to offer the same floral program at their commencements.

For every bouquet or arrangement sold over $27, Flowers for Dreams donated a backpack with a complete year’s worth of school supplies to a Chicago Public Schools student in need. This year, Flowers for Dreams donated 971 backpacks and more than 5,000 individual school supplies to CPS students.

“It’s our way of providing a festive setting and gift opportunity for our graduates and their families,” Lisa Sullivan, Director of Events for Academic Administration, said. “And in the spirit of St. Vincent, give back to the community.”

Sullivan is the one who Flowers for Dreams approached with this program. She said the university found the cause so worthy that they have made Flowers for Dreams a preferred vendor.

“We feel wonderful,” she said. “The graduates get flowers, and the underrepresented CPS students get school supplies that they wouldn’t have.”

Steve Dyme, the 24-year-old founder of Flowers for Dreams, said the idea was born when he was in college at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Dyme was introduced to a friend, whose family was in the flower industry. He used to take flowers from his dad’s flower shop and would sell them outside graduation ceremonies.

“In college, I was introduced the idea of selling flowers for graduation, and now Flowers for Dreams was kind of an extension of that,” he said. “It was born out of the idea that flower delivery could be way more inspiring and way easier and simpler.”

Also, the experience of volunteering for a nonprofit organization, Supplies for Dream,s inspired Dyme to do more to help CPS students in need.

Supplies for Dreams is a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the way CPS students learn and experience life. Their philosophy is, “we believe that all students deserve a realistic opportunity to achieve their dreams.”

So what they do is donate backpacks of school supplies to low-income school students.

“We figured, hey, this would be a good way,” Dyme said. “We are working with schools. They are helping schools. What if we could work together?”

So, here came the idea of selling bouquets outside graduation ceremonies and donating school supplies to CPS students in need for each bouquet. And DePaul, with its large number of students, became a prominent participant in this cause.

“It’s been great to work with DePaul,” Dyme said. “We will continue working with DePaul in the future.”

Kelly Johnson, associate vice president for Academic Affairs, is in charge of coordinating the commencement activities for the university every year.

“It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement that we have with Flowers for Dreams,” she said. “It really speaks to DePaul’s desire to be a partner on that level of service back.”

But in Johnson’s opinion, that’s not all. More importantly, she said this is a way to contribute to the success of DePaul’s future students.

“It’s no longer just convenience,” she said. “It actually suggests deep connection. We are now servicing our future students.”

It is always an important issue that many CPS students are from low-income families. According to the Stats and Facts from CPS official website, 85 percent of the students are receiving free or reduced-price lunch.

Flowers for Dreams is making a personal impact on this critical issue.

“Our students need supplies. Our kids in all levels of education need pens, papers, rulers and calculators,” Johnson said. “But so many of them cannot afford it.”

“It’s an extremely feel-good event. It’s so practical to give that kind of support to our CPS students,” she said. “So I mean, how can you argue against it?”

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Graduation flowers at DePaul made possible by Flowers for Dreams