Meet Mercides Parker, a 15-year-old student at Golder College Prep High School in Chicago, Illinois, who decided it was time to think seriously about making her dream of attending college come true – and figure out exactly how she was going to pay for it. With the prospect of college scholarships seeming limited, Mercides decided to come up with a Plan B or, should we say, a Plan C.

After learning about a restaurant owner who started baking cookies for students at a nearby high school, Mercides came up an idea of her own that involved cookies.

She sampled a few recipes and asked her friends to taste them. The feedback was good, but Mercides wanted a perfect cookie recipe, so she called her aunt, gospel recording artist Kim Stratton. As quiet as it’s kept, Kim is not only great at singing, but she is an excellent cook and pastry chef. Well, not only did Kim give Mercides her very own recipe, but she invited her over to master the art of making the perfect cookie.

So, inspired by creativity, passion and a clear goal in sight, Mercides Parker is on her way to baking her way to college and fulfilling a dream. Click here to hear her talk about it.

How can you help your children dream as big as Mercides? Well, I found the following steps to encourage your kids to dream big and help them create a roadmap to achieve those dreams. I use them with my children and, over time, have tweaked them based on what seems to have been effective – or not so much.

Dreaming the Dream (Getting Their Heads in the Game!)

It all starts in the mind. Encourage your children to dream big. Lend them an ear. Listen to their outrageous ideas. Remember, every great achievement began in the mind of one person because they dared to dream and believe that it was possible. Help them with their creativity. Ask them to write it down on paper or draw it out. The more they dream, the more that it is possible for them to achieve.

Believing the Dream (We Got You!)

Don’t just listen to the dreams of your children. Believe in them, and help them have faith in their dreams too! Let them know it doesn’t matter if their dreams are seemingly beyond their capabilities because dreams are supposed to be big. If they are focused, work hard and are determined to achieve what they set out for, then nothing is impossible. Ask them to own their dreams and know that the first step to achieving them is believing in them.

Seeing/Living the Dream (Picture This!)

Encourage your children to live their dream. Great achievers have a habit. They “see” things. They picture themselves walking around their new office in their new $25 million corporate headquarters, even while they are sitting on a folding chair in their current garage “headquarters.” It’s perfectly fine if the kids act like a doctor (Uh, that’s different than “playing” doctor.) or a policeman or fireman. The more they live and see their dream, the more they will experience it in their mind, and the more it will get hard wired in their subconscious. Help them start taking steps towards their dream by taking a class, showing them inspiring documentaries or even just volunteering in the field in which they want to enter.

Planning the Dream (Step It Up!)

Explain to your children that every dream must take the form of a plan. Planning is like making a small step which will take them closer to their dream. One step at a time. If they want to be a football player, ask them what they think they need to do in order to become one. Guide them with their answers. A simple plan for a nine-year-old would be to make sure he/she is eating right, attending school regularly to make sure their grades don’t suffer and starting a workout program appropriate for their age. Making a simple plan is more than enough to hardwire the concept in their brain.

Working The Dream (Doing the Darn Thing!)

Wouldn’t life be grand if we could quit before this step? We could just imagine it, and then it would happen! Unfortunately, the greatest things in our life often come from continuous effort. Your children need to be given good support examples to make sure they get a good grasp of this point. While the rest of the world is sitting on their couch watching TV, achievers are working on their goal – achieving their dream. There is an equation that is easy to understand and should do the work. Explain to your child the following: Your short-term tasks, multiplied by time, equal your long-term accomplishments. If you work on it each day, eventually you will achieve your dream. Simple!

Enjoying The Dream (Treat Yourself!)

All the hard work is of no use if we don’t know how to enjoy our accomplishments. Children need to learn how to celebrate! Let them know that when they reach their goal and are living their dream, they should be sure to enjoy it . More importantly, they should enjoy the journey too.

Then go back to number one. And dream a little bigger this time!

Have you asked your children about their dreams lately?

Nikki Woods is senior producer of “The Tom Joyner Morning Show.” The author of “Easier Said Than Done,” the Dallas-based Woods is currently working on her second and third novels. You can friend her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter: @nikkiwoods.

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