2021 Year in Review



2021 marked DREAM’s 30th anniversary. That means three decades of advancing DREAM’s mission: our belief that all kids can, and that every child deserves safe, beautiful places to play, learn, and grow.

DREAM now serves over 2,000 youth annually through a network of extended-day, extended-year DREAM Charter Schools and community sports-based youth development programs. The abandoned lot in East Harlem where DREAM was founded by a few volunteers sometimes seems like a lifetime ago.

But in fact, we’re just getting started. From the first day of Pre-K to high school graduation, and beyond, DREAM has our kids’ backs. And that work is possible because of partners big and small who know that changing the world for one child changes it for all of us. They know that their investment in DREAM - whether time, money, or sweat - is also an investment in our proven model for nurturing every aspect of every child - their home, their family, their education, their physical health, their social-emotional wellness.

That’s how we tackle the cycles of inequity that exist today, creating lifelong learners who are equipped to fulfill their own visions of success. That’s how we make generational, societal change - together.

Our History

  • Photograph of kids playing baseball on the Harlem RBI field1991DREAM, then Harlem RBI, is founded when a group of volunteers transforms an abandoned, garbage-strewn lot into two baseball diamonds for the youth of East Harlem.
  • Photo of two girls reading together in a classroom1999DREAM launches its award-winning REAL Kids summer learning program, the organization’s first formal effort to build a bridge between the ballfield and the classroom.
  • Photo of Harlem RBI's new baseball field2005The newly renovated Field of Dreams opens in East Harlem on what the front page of The New York Times once called “the worst block in NYC.” Harlem RBI’s sports-based youth development programs become a model and symbol of the power of play for young people everywhere.
  • Photo of a child seated at a desk, holding a pencil and raising his hand2008DREAM Charter School opens to more deeply serve the community of East Harlem through an extended-day, extended-year whole child community school model.
  • Digital rendering of the exterior of the DREAM East Harlem Center2015The East Harlem Center for Living and Learning opens to local and national acclaim. The permanent home of DREAM Charter School—part of a mixed-use development that includes affordable housing and a new public park—is the first public school building to be constructed in East Harlem in nearly 50 years.
  • Photograph of two girls laughing and hugging2017DREAM Charter High School opens its doors with a founding class of ninth graders, ensuring that our teenage scholars transition successfully to college, careers, and beyond.
  • Photo of a young child stacking blocks in a classroom2019Six years after DREAM first brought its summer program to the Bronx, DREAM Mott Haven opens with a founding class of kindergarteners.
  • Photo of the 2021 high school graduating class throwing caps into the air2021Having grown to serve more than 2,000 youth throughout East Harlem and the South Bronx, DREAM graduates its first DREAM Charter High School 12th grade class on the Field of Dreams.

DREAM Maxims

From our classrooms to our ballfields, DREAM’s maxims amplify the values that have guided us since 1991 and will carry us into the future.

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

Encouraging Growth

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.


Coming Together

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.

DREAM’s Class of 2021:
30 Years in the Making

When the DREAM Charter High School Class of 2021 threw their caps in the air at the Field of Dreams this past June, it wasn’t just the celebratory end of a graduation ceremony. In many ways, it was the culmination of three decades’ worth of investment in DREAM’s students, families, and communities. It was also the start of DREAM’s next generation, a new era of leveling the field for all kids—from early childhood to young adulthood and beyond.

The DREAM Way: Our Model

By combining all that we’ve learned over 30 years of community and school-based work, we’ve defined the elements of our Grow the Whole Child model that drive impact and transformative change for youth.

  • Rigorous Academics“If you told me in ninth grade that I was going to write a 16-page paper my senior year, I would have said you were crazy. But, I’ve learned how to write better. I’ve learned how to critique my work better and take critique of my work better. And I’ve learned how to do research, so that later on in college I’ll have the skills with me, instead of going into it brand-new.”Christopher Contes, DCHS Class of 2021
  • Social-Emotional Learning“As an alum of our programs, DREAM has always been a place I felt safe, loved, and encouraged. DREAM makes it possible for all students to imagine futures far beyond their current conditions.”Marleny Carolina, DREAM Ambassador and DREAM Legend
  • Athletics, Health, & Wellness“One of DREAM’s maxims is Fail. Persist. Exceed. Sports-based programming gives kids a safe place to fail and learn about failure - and then to succeed, and to celebrate that success with teammates and adults they trust. It all comes down to learning what it means to be on a team - an invaluable experience that many kids wouldn’t have without sports.”Robert Saltares, Senior Manager of Athletics, Health, & Wellness and DREAM Legend
  • Family & Community Engagement“DREAM gives a stable future for my daughter’s education. Knowing she can go to elementary school, and middle school, and high school - and knowing she can find resources in the same place, in the same community - is really comforting.”Katie Colón, DREAM Parent
I teach because I strive to be a visual reminder that little Puerto Rican girls from the Bronx can grow up to make a difference in the world.Melissa Perez, DREAM Teacher

Our Commitment to DEI

At DREAM, diversity, equity, and inclusion are a matter of mission. We are well aware that our work takes place in the larger context of the world—a world that our students move through every day, and in which they contend personally with issues of inequity. While this has always been the case, the political and social tensions of recent years have made our engagement with our youth and families, and our DEI investments, more urgent and consequential than ever.

2021 was the year that we formalized principles and practices that have been an inextricable part of DREAM’s DNA since its founding. Our resulting DEI plan is rooted in three main areas of focus:
  • Maintain a level playing field by regularly reviewing talent and people practices through an equity lens.
  • Grow and develop a diverse staff by investing in their personal and professional development.
  • Strengthen the student experience to build greater equity into our school-based practices, policies, programs, and curriculum.
Explore the Full Plan

2021 At A Glance

  • 0%of recent promotions were earned by BIPOC employees
  • 0%of external network hires identified as BIPOC
  • 0%of DREAM's management team identify as BIPOC, up from 40% the previous year

Our Community & Impact

Who We Serve


Hispanic and/or Black student body


qualify for free or reduced lunch


students with identified special needs (compared to NYC’s average of 20%)

Combating Summer Learning Loss


of 2021 REAL Kids summer program participants met or exceeded literacy goals

Fostering Social-Emotional Growth


of K-12 DREAM Charter School students made gains in multiple SEL competencies over the course of the 2020-21 school year

Our Outcomes


DREAM Charter High School graduation rate


of students who applied to college were accepted

Supporter Spotlight

Fueling Our Future:

A DREAM Summer with the New York Yankees and Nike

This past summer, DREAM partnered with the Yankees and Nike to launch the inaugural Fueling Our Future initiative, developed to provide children in underserved communities with the health and wellness skills needed to excel in the classroom, on the field, and in their daily lives. Through the initiative, DREAM students participated in five weekly virtual seminars with Yankees employees who are experts in their respective fields of mental health, physical fitness, and healthy eating. The students were also treated to a trip to Yankee Stadium, where they saw the Yanks square off against the Orioles from box seats.

“The way you chip away at barriers that exist is to provide access,” said Yankees Senior Vice President of Community Relations Brian Smith, who led the initiative. “Things like how to prep affordable healthy meal options, how to take care of yourself physically on a daily basis, and how to take care of yourself mentally—we wanted to show kids what they need to do to be running on all cylinders, and put them in a lane to become our future leaders.”

Alumni Spotlight

Behind the Camera:

DREAM Legend Dominick Torres

While studying filmmaking at Massachusetts’ Wheaton College in 2019, DREAM Legend Dominick Torres traveled to Puerto Rico on a faculty-led trip to research the effects of Hurricane Maria on the island. His project proposal was awarded Wheaton’s Filmmaker-in-Residence grant, and the result was the documentary Aguante, chronicling the history and rise of gender-based violence in Puerto Rico. Dominick partnered with the team at DREAM to screen the documentary for DREAM Charter High School students this past spring, and the film went on to win the Young Emerging Filmmaker Showcase Award at the Newburyport Documentary Film Festival in September.

Now graduated from Wheaton and pursuing a career in filmmaking, Dominick says he attributes his interest in social justice stories and themes to his grandmother, Carmen Vega-Rivera, who dedicated her life to human rights and social justice. “She was always teaching me the importance of uplifting the voices of vulnerable communities,” says Dominick. “I feel a duty to uplift that voice and give them a platform to share their experiences.”

Our Financials

DREAM 5-Year Finanical Analysis

School and Community Programs Combined
IncomeExpenseNet Assets

DREAM FY2021 Income & Expense

School and Community Programs Combined
DOE Per Pupil46.9%Private Grants12.1%Public Grants15.7%General Contributions15.5%Other Income9.7%
Expense $33.6M
Functional Program Expenses Excluding Capital79.0%Administration18.0%Fundraising3.0%

Our Supporters

Your support means the world to us.

This list reflects general operating support from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021.

  • Bank of America Merrill Lynch
  • Seth Bernstein
  • David and Allison Blitzer
  • Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies
  • The Charles Hayden Foundation
  • Charter School Growth Fund
  • Gary Cohn and Lisa Pevaroff-Cohn
  • The Daneker Family
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  • Donald R. Mullen Jr. and Amanda M. Mullen
  • Robin Hood
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  • Alkeon Capital Management
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  • Ashish and Sweta Doshi
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  • Anonymous (3)
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  • Venu and Melissa Angara
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  • Nicholas Val Napolitano Memorial Fund
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  • PIMCO Foundation
  • Caleb Pitters
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  • Anonymous
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  • Linda Dickerson
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  • Microsoft Matching Gifts Program
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  • Carolyn Simmons
  • Michael Simon
  • Mila Singh
  • Jennifer Small
  • Andy Smith
  • Laurence Sorkin
  • Kellie Spann
  • Jake Sporn
  • Michael H. Sporn
  • Squarespace
  • Evyn Staley
  • Joshua Stamberg
  • Danielle Stefanucci
  • Alacia Steinbergen
  • Felice St. John
  • Patrick Sturgeon
  • Cary Tamura
  • Peter Tarshis
  • Fabrice Tatieze Temgoua
  • R. Scott Toop
  • Anthony Trifero
  • Melissa Trinidad
  • Kimberly Ueyama
  • Urban Projects Collaborative, LLC
  • Derek VanRiper
  • Paul Visgilio
  • Daniel Vogt
  • Thomas Vosbeek
  • Callie Wachman
  • Kevin Waldman
  • Stephen and Nancy Wasilewski
  • Dave Weiman and Lindsay Karbum Weiman
  • Scott Weinstein
  • Victoria Wicks
  • Brian Willer
  • Kate Williams
  • Andrew Wood
  • Benjamin Wood
  • Russell Wood
  • William Wood
  • Zhaohua Yang
  • Cheryl Young
  • Will Young
  • Georgiana Zehner
  • Eva Zhou

  • Anonymous (3)
  • Syreeta Akin
  • Rebecca Atkinson
  • Jo-Ann Barett
  • Mike Barry
  • Jon Beckwith
  • Sarah Benjamin
  • Marie Berbari
  • Nick Berliner
  • Sadie Bernstein
  • Stacey Blau
  • The Blitzer Family
  • Christopher Bole
  • Paige Bowman
  • Krystal Bradford
  • Dennis Brandt
  • Jason Bratin
  • Emma Bratman
  • Bernard Camins
  • Damil Canales
  • Catherine Canary
  • Jill Cancellieri
  • Kristen Carlberg
  • Dave Carter
  • Lisa Cavaliere
  • Ryan Cavin
  • Ravali Ceyyur
  • Athena Chang
  • Gregory Chertok
  • Julie Chiaverini
  • Yashwant Chunduru
  • Christopher Combs
  • Katie Cook
  • Kadian Creighton
  • Stephen Crociata
  • Joshua Davis
  • Austin DeBruin
  • Missy Degleffetti
  • William DeLuca
  • Ashley De Rosa
  • Mildred Diaz
  • Nicolas DiProspero
  • Andrew Di Salvo
  • Suzanne Donaldson
  • Christiana Donofry
  • Joseph Drake
  • Michael Dunn
  • Jasmine Duprevil
  • Catherine Ebanks
  • Tobi and Mayer Emanuel
  • Paul Enright
  • Kelton Estabrook
  • Fat Cat Chess Club
  • Steven Fecko
  • Theodore Feder
  • Jonathan Feiler
  • Jason Fingerman
  • Adam Friedlander
  • Akash Gangil
  • Melanie Garcia
  • Alan Germain
  • Barbara Germain
  • Grace Gimpel
  • Benjamin Goldman
  • Joanna Gonzales
  • Paul L. Gregory DDS
  • Jeffrey Grosz
  • Kyle Gudmundson
  • Jesus Guerrero
  • Jenna Haidar
  • Deirdre Hall
  • Ian Hall
  • Mallory Harwood
  • Nicola Histon
  • Chris Hoag
  • Megan Hodges
  • Michelle Holland
  • Kelsi Holman
  • Vedrana Hrsak
  • Sara Hruska
  • Solomon Hykes
  • Shomeiko Ingham
  • Joseph Interlandi
  • Gary Isaac
  • Sandeep Kandhari
  • Grace Keating
  • Peter Kiernan
  • Christine Kim
  • Elizabeth Kneller
  • Cody Kunning
  • Jarrod Lacks
  • Joan Lane
  • Tiffany Lawrence
  • Donna Lazarus
  • Brandon Leonard
  • Mark Levande
  • William and Ilene Lipshutz
  • Roberta Locatelli
  • Julie Locher
  • Dennis Looney and Joanna Thornton
  • Amanda Lotz
  • Polly Macnab
  • Ruth MacRitchie
  • Adam and Brittany Marcus
  • Julie Maschler
  • Rachel Maschler
  • Matthew J. Masseo
  • Kevin McBreen
  • Patrick McEvoy
  • Lucy McLoughlin
  • Hamna Mela
  • Patrick Michalowski
  • Rebecca Miller
  • Stuart Miller
  • Lisa Miranda
  • Aparajita Mitra
  • Timur Murillo
  • Cleo Nagy
  • NBC Universal
  • Amanda Newcomb
  • Teresa and Joe Nicholson
  • Matt Nielsen
  • Peter Noonan
  • Jacqueline O'Boyle
  • William Olney
  • Sophie E. Paci
  • Stefano Paci and Alison Mears
  • Michele A. Paguaga
  • Sana Pasha
  • PayPal Giving Fund
  • Jessica Perez
  • Steve Phillips
  • Taylor Pike
  • Michael Pinsky
  • Lukas Plansky
  • Jamie Platzer
  • Molly Polk
  • Dominique Pompa
  • Jasmine Quiles-Mille
  • Kelly Quinlan
  • Ana-Liza Quirolgico
  • Holly Renton
  • Zack Robbins
  • Brian Roberts
  • Danielle Robinson
  • Mollie Rogers
  • Leah Roh
  • Gia Russo
  • Nicolas Russo
  • Robert Rybski
  • Brandon Scharf
  • Emily Schell
  • Scott Schmidt
  • David Schulak
  • Lauren Sebastian
  • Mathilde Sellars
  • Andrew Settle
  • Scott Seymour
  • Michael Slagus
  • Jason Smith
  • Idalia Soto and Michael Colon
  • Southwestern Fundraising
  • Jon Springer
  • Mark Stein
  • Caren Sutton
  • Trude Goodman Tiesi
  • Sarah Fox Tracy
  • Alex Tsirkin
  • Rob Twiddy
  • Agustin Umanzor Jr. and Laura Romano
  • Rebecca Valentino
  • Anne Valentzas
  • Brittany Varriano
  • Claire Vecchione
  • Jaime Wachtel
  • Margie Weiner
  • Kristen Whitaker
  • Kyle Woolley
  • Xilinx
  • Isabel Yasana
  • Diane Yokana
  • Robert Zdravevski

  • Anomaly
  • Bank of America
  • Boomer Naturals
  • Carlos Maceda
  • Delta
  • Fresh Direct
  • Fried Frank
  • Holland & Knight
  • JKR
  • Katzman Produce
  • KPMG
  • Lawrence and Lisa Barshay
  • The New York Mets
  • The New York Yankees
  • Perkins Eastman
  • Proskauer
  • Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
  • Soul Focused Group
  • Trinity Church Wall Street
  • The Truesdale Family

What's Next

Our history gives us the foundation to dream big and bold for the future—and our strategic objectives give us the blueprint to do so

2,100At scale in the next five years, DREAM will operate three PreK-8 schools and one high school to serve 2,500 students
500Our Legends alumni numbers will grow from 170 currently to approximately 500 by 2025 and 900 by 2030
$45MIn order to realize these strategic objectives, DREAM’s annual operating budget will grow from $45M to $98M over the next decade
DREAM is a generational investment. We invest from Pre-K through college graduation and career launch, to ensure that our young people seize every opportunity to realize their potential. Because when that happens, everything around the child gets better—their family, their community, and the world.Pete Daneker, Vice-Chair, DREAM Board of Directors