DREAMING TOGETHER:

30 YEARS
OF IMPACT

every future begins with a dream.
you’ve helped shape ours.

Thirty years ago, a dream was born on what The New York Times once called “the worst block in New York City.”

That first, endless dream – that the youth of our communities have a safe, beautiful place to play, learn, and grow – blossomed from a scruffy Little League into afterschool and summer programming that leverages the power of teamwork, a network of DREAM Charter Schools that balance rigor and joy to serve the whole child, and wraparound supports for school families ranging from food distribution to financial assistance and more.

In this anniversary year, as we look to our past and plan for our future, we are still dreaming big—arm-in-arm with the volunteers, youth, families, staff, partners, and supporters who have helped to write DREAM’s 30-year story.

THE SEED OF A DREAM

In 1991, DREAM, then Harlem RBI, was founded when a group of volunteers transformed an abandoned, garbage-strewn lot into two baseball diamonds for the youth of East Harlem. Thirty years later, we’ve served thousands of youth across East Harlem and the South Bronx through a network of free, extended-day, extended-year DREAM Charter Schools and community sports-based youth development programs.

We have evolved, pivoted, and grown to meet our community’s needs. But our founding purpose – and the mission that connects us all – is the same as it’s always been: To level the playing field by giving all children the tools and opportunities to recognize their potential and realize their dreams.

Whether on the field or in the classroom, in our first humble one-room office on 100th Street or a brand new state-of-the-art school, DREAM has been and always will be a place that is built on relationships. On the surface, we look very different than we did three decades ago, clearing litter off that abandoned lot and scraping together funds for bats and uniforms. But no matter what, we’ll always be a place full of caring peers and adults. We’ll always be a place that holds children to high expectations and supports them endlessly. And we’ll always be a place to dream.

1999

DREAM 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.

2008

DREAM Charter School opens to more deeply serve the community of East Harlem through an extended-day, extended-year whole child community school model.

2017

DREAM Charter High School opens its doors to a founding class of ninth graders, ensuring that our youth transition successfully to college, careers, and beyond.

1991 2021

1991

DREAM, then Harlem RBI, is founded when a group of volunteers transforms an abandoned, garbage-strewn lot into two baseball diamonds for the youth in East Harlem.

2005

The newly renovated Field of Dreams opens in East Harlem on what the New York Times once called “the worst block in NYC.” Harlem RBI’s sports-based youth development programs become a symbol of and model for the power of play.

2015

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 constructed in East Harlem in nearly 50 years.

2019

Six years after DREAM first brought its summer program to the Bronx, DREAM Mott Haven opens with a founding class of kindergarteners.

1991

DREAM, then Harlem RBI, is founded when a group of volunteers transforms an abandoned, garbage-strewn lot into two baseball diamonds for the youth in East Harlem.

1999

DREAM 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.

2005

The newly renovated Field of Dreams opens in East Harlem on what the New York Times once called “the worst block in NYC.” Harlem RBI’s sports-based youth development programs become a symbol of and model for the power of play.

2008

DREAM Charter School opens to more deeply serve the community of East Harlem through an extended-day, extended-year whole child community school model.

2015

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 constructed in East Harlem in nearly 50 years.

2017

DREAM Charter High School opens its doors to a founding class of ninth graders, ensuring that our youth transition successfully to college, careers, and beyond.

2019

Six years after DREAM first brought its summer program to the Bronx, DREAM Mott Haven opens with a founding class of kindergarteners.

growing roots in the community, we built the first public school in East Harlem in 50 years.

In 2008, DREAM Charter School was founded in East Harlem, making it possible for our model to be applied on an extended-day, extended-year basis. We cut the ribbon at our founding school location, 1991 Second Avenue, in 2015. The project was ambitious—the first public school building constructed in East Harlem in 50 years—and also included the East Harlem Center for Living and Learning, a 160,000-square foot multi-family and mixed-use building that consists of 89 affordable housing units and rehabilitated park space. During this time, DREAM also launched its Legends program, which to this day provides intensive postsecondary support to college-aged alumni of both Harlem RBI and DREAM Charter Schools.

from dream to reality

Our history gives us the foundation to dream big and bold for the future – and our strategic plan for the next decade gives us the blueprint to do so. It means ensuring transformative outcomes for youth and being a workplace driven by a unified sense of purpose and a shared commitment to equity. It means expanding to dream even bigger, including growing to serve over 2,500 scholars in our New York City charter schools. And it means working ceaselessly toward postsecondary outcomes for our students that equal or exceed those of their affluent peers across the nation.

2,500

At scale in the next five years, DREAM will operate three K-8 schools, one preschool, and one high school to serve 2,500 students

900

Our Legends alumni numbers will grow from 170 currently to approximately 500 by 2025 and 900 by 2030

$98M

In order to realize these strategic objectives, DREAM’s annual operating budget will grow from $45M to $98M over the next decade

dream with us

Our community’s generosity has made possible the past 30 years of impact—and in DREAM’s Anniversary year, that support will be more critical than ever to sustain us for the next 30, and beyond. Close to 100% of our majority Black and Hispanic student body live below the poverty level; 56% of our families include at least one essential worker; and 27% of our students have identified special needs, well above the New York City average. Our work ensures these communities can emerge from the challenges of the pandemic not only intact, but in a better place, and that DREAM can continue to serve as a home away from home for them.

Stand strong for our students and families in 2021 by making a gift to our Dreaming Together 30th Anniversary campaign, and join us in building the future we’re working toward: tripling the number of youth we serve through our extended-day, extended-year whole child model, building more schools in more places, and working toward equitable, generational change, together.

If DREAM has had a transformational impact on your life or that of someone you care about, consider taking a moment to share your DREAM story below and let others know why this mission matters to you.

30 FOR 30: THREE DECADES OF DREAM STORIES

DREAM is powered by our people. From teachers and coaches to parents and students; from alumni and administrative staff to social workers and supporters – our community is what sets us apart. Throughout 2021, we’ll be sharing stories from all different members of our DREAM family, in their own words. Here are a few that we wanted to share with you.

THANK YOU

More than anything, thank you. Just as it takes a village to raise children who will go on to live full, engaged lives, it takes volunteers, supporters, teachers, coaches, mentors—an entire community—to make DREAM’s work possible. From the little things that we can all do—having a catch, reading a book—come the big things. This is how we build on the past thirty years, for the next thirty, and the next. This is how we achieve generational change—together.

Donate to DREAM today