All Kids Can. This Kid Can.
In a seminal “first” for DREAM Charter Schools, the organization has partnered with the Rochester Institute of Technology to send nine DREAM Charter High School students to the university as a supported cohort, receiving not only full financial assistance, but also the academic, social, and personal support they need to thrive and graduate.
In partnering with RIT, DREAM’s preexisting post-secondary supports are enhanced for the nine cohort students, reinforcing DREAM’s emphasis on not only college access, but also college persistence. The cohort has dedicated advisors and program coordinators from both the university and the DREAM Legends Fellows program. They also attended a summer bridge program—a chance for them to get their feet wet with college coursework and get used to living on campus. The cohort is spending its first year of college in RIT’s School of Individualized Study, where they can use a STEM-focused curriculum to hone in on what they’d like their degree focus to be. What’s more, each student has received a full scholarship for each year at RIT, backed by generous funding from RIT, DREAM, and DREAM Board member Don Truesdale.
Dream is Family
This fall, DREAM celebrated the opening of our newest campus in the Bronx, DREAM Highbridge Elementary School—the sixth of our extended-day, extended-year charter schools and our first dedicated to the Highbridge neighborhood. The launch of this school is a testament to DREAM’s commitment to intentional, sustainable expansion, rooted in listening to what our community needs. HBES builds on the programming that DREAM piloted in the Highbridge community last summer, deepening our ties with the students and families that HBES serves.
Founding Principal Shannel Richardson came up through DREAM’s Principal-in-Residence program, one of our pipelines for developing leaders from our communities. While developing how she would establish a strong school culture, Richardson knew that HBES would be modeled on the decades-old belief that DREAM is Family. “I’m mostly looking forward to establishing a school where we can support all kids,” she said. “It’s extremely important to me, especially as someone who grew up in the Bronx and faced inequalities myself, that we provide a school where students are able to learn, thrive, grow, and become self-advocates.”
Teamwork makes the DREAM work
2022 marked the second year NYU Professor Steven Hahn lectured at DREAM Charter High School, the result of a unique partnership formed with the school’s Principal Brandon Taylor. After bonding over their shared love of history education last year, the pair began to ideate on how they could combine forces—specifically how they could more tightly connect secondary education to the post-secondary environment. The result was two courses—the first focused on America’s Reconstruction period, and the second on the Great Migration from America’s southern states. Both Hahn and Taylor saw these courses as an opportunity to expose DCHS students to the college-level thinking they’d be doing after high school.
The connection with Hahn, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, created an opportunity for students to experience what college-level study entails, and showed them that door is open to them. “The beautiful moments were the times Professor Hahn could stay after and kids could ask questions,” said Taylor. “The kids were able to ask unique and dynamic questions that related to their experience and their history. They benefited from seeing they can engage with a Pulitzer Prize-winning professor one-on-one.”
fun is a Serious Value
This past spring, students welcomed Olympic gold medal gymnast Laurie Hernandez and Hamilton actress Krystal Joy Brown to DREAM East Harlem for an exciting all-school gathering. Hernandez and Brown surprised students as part of a series facilitated by longtime partner KPMG, who had been organizing virtual field trips throughout the pandemic as a way to continue engaging children; creating an in-person experience for DREAM students moved the field trips off the screen and into real life once again. “Being here at DREAM with KPMG means a lot to me,” said Hernandez. “I see this as supporting the students and their creativity.”
During the day, Hernandez and Brown led students in movement and improv exercises, while discussing the physical and mental fitness they need to thrive in their work. Asked about her favorite line from her role as Hamilton’s Eliza, Brown also showed off her singing prowess by serenading students with “That Would Be Enough,” from the hit Broadway show. “Being a theater person, I just love connecting face-to-face,” said Brown. “We’ve spent so much time having to be isolated, and I love meeting these brilliant young minds.”
Fail. Persist. Exceed.
For so many educators and parents, the past two years of pandemic-era learning felt like a long loop of fail and persist. At DREAM, we worked hard to keep our community safe, healthy, and engaged—and in many ways, we pushed ourselves from surviving to thriving. But the 2022-23 school year provided us with one of our biggest opportunities yet to shift ourselves and our students into exceed mode.
One way we’re turning that corner? DREAM recently invested in a curriculum overhaul, shifting our core literacy approach to align with the Science of Reading—an approach that teaches phonics and phonemic awareness, is rooted in brain science, and is becoming the national standard for literacy. DREAM began implementing this change during our 2022 summer programming, and our results pointed to early success, including a 12% increase in the number of students scoring basic or proficient in ELA. DREAM believes this early data is strong evidence that fully implementing the Science of Reading will lead to positive results during the school year—a school year that, coupled with summer and afterschool programming, is a critical juncture for addressing pandemic learning loss and accelerating student achievement and literacy.
This past fall, DREAM welcomed several familiar faces into its classrooms—our inaugural Teaching Fellows, selected as part of a new initiative to kickstart the teaching careers of DREAM alumni and longtime part-time staff members. This first-of-its-kind cohort includes Kim Crawford, Nicholas Feliz, Brandon Gordon, Jenia Reyes, and Matthew Sierra.
A 12-month, full-time paid position, the DREAM Teaching Fellowship builds on our intergenerational investment in the communities we serve and expands pathways to success for those already a part of the DREAM family. Supported by a generous scholarship from DREAM, Teaching Fellows work toward earning New York State teaching certification, as well as a master’s degree in teaching from Relay Graduate School of Education. They also work in a DREAM classroom under the guidance of a mentor teacher, while participating in a cohort experience to support and propel their growth. Teaching Fellows receive regular feedback and coaching, all while building the skills necessary to manage a classroom, lead instruction, and meaningfully engage students and families. What’s more, they become familiar role models our students can continue to look to for inspiration.