Letter from Our Program Director
When I was 14 years old, I remember standing on line with hundreds of 8th grade students for what seemed like forever. If it weren’t for the bevy of flashcards, calculators, and number 2 pencils, you'd have been forgiven for thinking that Six Flags had just opened an amusement park in downtown Manhattan. Sadly, that was not the case. Like thousands of New York students, I was waiting to take the New York City Specialized High School exam. I was nervous like you wouldn’t believe. Though buried under my apprehension, was a hopefulness that grounded me. Getting into a specialized high school was like opening a Wonka Bar and finding a golden ticket. It meant that you were in charge of your future. Your dreams were there for the taking.
Yet, even though the test wasn’t scheduled to begin until 10am, for many of us, the exam had already started. For me, it started the summer before when my parents enrolled me in a test prep class. The class was expensive, but my parents – my mother especially – were relentless in ensuring that I received the best education possible. On top of that, I was one of the lucky few who placed into my middle school’s magnet program. I had been preparing for the exam for several years without even realizing it. That was not the case for many of my peers. Students who could not afford specialized tutoring and attended underperforming schools were at a competitive disadvantage.
In recent years, the percentage of African American and Latino students attending specialized high schools has dropped to intolerable levels. One of the primary reasons for this trend is an unequal system of educational quality. By developing a program that provides extensive educational services, quality mentorship, and informational services for parents, my partners and I at DREAMChasers seek to level the playing field.
In his famous poem “Harlem,” Langston Hughes asks “what happens to a dream deferred?” “Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun. Or fester like a sore – and then run?” The poem is commonly interpreted as referring to structural barriers that have historically obstructed African Americans from achieving the American Dream. Today, we refuse to let the dream ‘defer’ any longer. This program is about restoring a belief in the American Dream and empowering a new generation of Dreamchasers.
Jason M. Clark, Esq.