All Kids Can. This Kid Can.
Partnering for Success
When DREAM East Harlem Elementary School first-grader Nehemiah first started showing signs of falling behind both academically and socially last year, Kindergarten teacher Olivia Gauthier and Assistant Dean of Culture Brianna Hawkins quickly came up with a plan. Olivia partnered with Nehemiah’s mother to create a clear line of communication and transparency between school and home. Brianna made it a point to do daily check-ins with Nehemiah to work on social-emotional exercises, like role-playing, and help him develop healthy communication and interaction skills. Today, Nehemiah—who staff describe as sweet, polite, and a lover of Ninja Turtles and dinosaurs—is reading on grade level, after performing well on last year’s exams. Most importantly, he’s learned what it means to be a classmate, and part of a community. “It was very rewarding to see the progress that Nehemiah made,” said Brianna, “and I’m looking forward to his continued growth.”
Dream is family
For Mott Haven Middle School Principal Jennifer Khan, anything is possible at DREAM. Fourteen years ago, she started her journey as an Assistant Program Coordinator, engaging youth and families in activities and events. She then spent 12 years working with DREAM’s middle school-aged scholars, before rising through the ranks to become the Middle School Dean of Programs. And last year, she took on a new challenge after being named a Founding Principal, opening the doors of Mott Haven Middle School to sixth grade students this past fall. “As we continue to grow and develop, I encourage everyone to dream big and be open to all the possibilities for youth, families and yourself,” Jenn says of her journey, adding that the DREAM is Family maxim has been key to her longevity with the organization. “My time at DREAM has helped me build so many lasting relationships and partnerships. All of these people have been essential to my growth and continue to push me so I can dream big.”
Teamwork makes the DREAM work
Leading the Way
Earlier this year, DREAM’s Executive Director Richard Berlin and Chief Education Officer Eve Colavito each assumed the role of co-Chief Executive Officer, creating a leadership model for the organization that reflects DREAM’s roots in teamwork and team-building. The new leadership structure was a move to formalize the close partnership under which the two had operated for many years, with added intentionality around empowering others—DREAM’s next generation of leadership talent—to make decisions in order to maximize the organization’s effectiveness and potential. “The co-leadership model, similar to the co-teaching model we employ in all of our classrooms, claims no single expert. It is built on the idea of shared power and shared leadership—and these are values that we want to continue to nurture within and across DREAM,” says Rich.
“Each and every person who works here at DREAM is a leader in their own right, and has the power and ability to nurture leadership in our young people,” says Eve.
fun is a Serious Value
The Road to the Field of Dreams
Though DREAM’s own Field of Dreams sits in East Harlem, it was the trip of a lifetime for our 14U team to travel to the Field of Dreams movie site in Iowa this summer to take part in Major League Baseball’s “A Dream Fulfilled” event. The team played on the movie’s historic field in a nationally televised youth game, staging a late comeback against one of the country’s premier teams. During the game, DREAM players even got to mingle with some of their biggest baseball heroes, Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz, who served as honorary coaches. And, on the final day of the trip, DREAM watched as the Yankees and White Sox squared off in the main event—the first-ever MLB contest in Iowa—and cheered on a fellow teammate who participated in the ceremonial first pitch. “I tried to share with them that while they're here, enjoy it,” said Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman, who paid a visit to the team before the game. “Take advantage of it, soak it all in, understand the opportunity before them, [and] have fun.”
Fail. Persist. Exceed.
Finding Her Voice
Recent DREAM Charter High School graduate Daniela Torres is now a freshman at Stanford, but a look back at her journey reveals the hurdles she has overcome, including immigrating to New York on her own from Veracruz, Mexico in the seventh grade. Armed with only a bit of English, Daniela found it difficult to communicate and make her voice heard. She struggled making friends. Even after joining DREAM as an eighth grader, it still took several months for her to break through her insecurities about speaking in front of her classmates. When she did, it was a day to remember.
“Students were debating a topic, and out of nowhere she jumped in, and passionately shared what she thought,” recalls Alison Browne, Daniela’s eighth grade social studies teacher. “Everyone stopped and listened—[Daniela] showed us that she was someone to be heard.” While her nature is to listen first, Daniela isn’t afraid to speak out when important and necessary—and it gained her a reputation as a quiet, yet insightful, leader among both her classmates and teachers and administrators.
The 2021-22 school year marked DREAM’s return to full-time in-person instruction—a long-planned milestone that allowed us to once again serve our families in the ways they most need and deserve. Some of the impacts of our return have been felt immediately, from little ones entering a classroom for the first time in their lives, to hallways and playgrounds coming back to life, to parents lighting up as they see their children blossoming. But getting “back to normal” is a long game, too, and often it means not normal, but better. We’re building equitable classroom environments where students can heal from the stresses of the past 18 months and reconnect as a community. Rather than remediating learning, we’re accelerating it, and it’s paying off. Not only have we determined that our students made a year’s worth of progress from Fall 2020 to Fall 2021, but acceleration, like all our work, is equity work at its core, keeping our scholars on pace with those who come from more resourced backgrounds.