Saying Pacific alumna Gwendolyn Dailey ’13, ’17 was surprised to receive the key to the city of Stockton would be an understatement.
“I thought getting the key to the city was for movie stars,” Dailey said. “It wasn’t even on my radar.”
Dedication and service to Stockton
Dailey received the honor from Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln at the State of the City event on May 18. She was nominated for the award by Councilmember Brando Villapudua for her work in the community as president and founder of Dome of Hope, a non-profit organization that serves at-risk youth and families in Southeast Stockton through education programs.
“Mama Gwendolyn is a bright light and a beacon of hope to all who know her,” said Mayor Lincoln as he presented the award. “Thank you, Gwendolyn Dailey, for your dedication and service to our community.”
“This is a moment I will cherish for the rest of my life,” said Dailey in her acceptance speech. “I want to express my deepest gratitude to the people of this city, its leaders and all those who have supported me. This honor is not just a recognition of my achievements, but a reflection of a collective effort of all those who have worked to make this city better.”
Dailey says she feels uniquely equipped to serve students’ educational needs through her non-profit work because she has experienced similar struggles in her own life.
“I couldn’t read and write well and didn’t have books in elementary school because it wasn’t funded,” said Dailey. “I dropped out of high school in the tenth grade. It took 35 years for me to go back.”
When Dailey made the choice to go back to school, she didn’t let anything stand in her way.
In 2013, Dailey graduated from University of the Pacific with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a minor in ethnic studies. She later earned her Master of Arts in Education with a dual concentration in student affairs and educational organization, leadership and administration.
Dailey is now back at Pacific as a doctoral candidate for education, with a concentration in transformative action in education. She is committed to bringing her educational experiences back to Dome of Hope, helping students and families navigate the school system and find their own path to success.
“I have committed my life to this,” said Dailey. “Anyone can take a recipe, make a cake, and be okay. But to have someone who has had the same experiences and put their heart into helping people out of it, you can tell difference.”
Dome of Hope
Dailey was inspired to start the Dome of Hope by her mother, Etta, who moved her family to Stockton so her children could receive an education. Dailey says her mother was deeply engaged in the community, feeding and housing community members who were struggling in south Stockton.
“My mother pushed me to be better and stay connected to the community,” said Dailey. “She was my motivation and the foundation of the mission of our organization.”
Dailey opened Dome of Hope in 1997, and the organization became a recognized public charitable organization (501c3) the next year. The organization’s mission soon took the form of an acronym inspired by Dailey’s mother’s name: E.T.T.A. (education, technology, trade, arts).
The organization offers programs in each of these subject areas to support students from age three to adulthood achieve success in their educational journeys—and ultimately, their personal and professional lives.
Serving the community through education
Dome of Hope’s outreach also includes children coming from illiterate families, who Dailey notes are often unable to communicate their needs. To help, Dome of Hope preps parents to attend literacy and computer skills programs, which empowers them to advocate for their children’s education needs and improve their financial situation.
“We don’t leave people behind,” said Dailey. “For example, the Trinity Parkway Walmart is mostly self-checkout, and many seniors can’t read or access it. So people increase the cost of their expenses going to other places due to reading and transportation deficiency by using delivery services. If we teach them basic English reading, writing and math, we can take them further.”
After over 25 years of serving the Stockton community, Dailey says she has no plans to slow down.
“I want my legacy to be a life of helping and being a servant, and God has blessed me through it,” said Dailey. “I love the city [of Stockton]. Money is not my motivator; it’s the mission. People need my help.”