our whole
child model

DREAM’s unique Grow the Whole Child
education model is powered by four distinct yet interconnected elements that drive transformative change for youth. Rigorous academics; social-emotional learning; athletics, health, and wellness; and family and community engagement are all equal, crucial parts of the everyday at DREAM.

The Components of Our Model

Our Grow the Whole Child model breaks down into four equal parts. Together, they form our 360-degree approach to not only learning, but the development of our students into individuals who live full lives and have agency over their future.

Rigorous Academics

DREAM’s critically conscious curriculum prepares students to fulfill their vision of success, in the classroom and beyond. Across East Harlem and the Bronx, DREAM Charter Schools serve over 1,500 students from preschool to pre-college, and our scholars consistently outperform city and state peers in ELA and Math.

Social-Emotional Learning

We believe school should be a place to play, learn, and grow - somewhere that’s about more than just grades and testing, where students can develop both critical thinking skills and compassion. DREAM’s Grow the Whole Child Model is rooted in social-emotional learning, which helps children understand and respond to emotions - aiding their development into individuals who have positive identities, healthy relationships, and the ability to manage adversity.

Athletics, Health, & Wellness

DREAM invests in the mental and physical health of our students. We offer robust in-school physical activity, mental health support services, and free, nationally recognized afterschool and summer sports-based programs that help our scholars become confident, competent, and caring community members who know what it means to be part of a team.

Family & Community Engagement

DREAM’s families are critical partners. From home visits to daily communication, families and school staff actively work together and share decision-making. We support our families outside the classroom, too, with resources that have ranged from food distributions and clothing drives to direct financial support and case management.

our model in action

Every day at DREAM, we put our model into practice - and it pays dividends for our students, families, and community.

A Curriculum for Change

Since its founding, DREAM Charter High School has worked to define its curriculum as a pathway to developing critical thinkers and lifelong learners who are ready to build, innovate, and drive change. For many, the culmination of this process came in the form of DREAM’s Advanced Placement Research course—a year-long, systematic deep dive into topics affecting the world today. Students not only read articles and developed a research paper; they also created their own hypotheses, built their collection models, conducted unique analysis, and presented their findings. In 2021, students focused on research topics related to minority representation in the media, the social and emotional impact of social media, and the possibility of time travel, to name just a few. The course is now a cornerstone of DREAM’s education model for its high school.

“What I’m looking forward to is that this course becomes not just a class the students take, but something they’re aware of coming into the high school, a coherent rite of passage. This is really important as a possible springboard for their futures. It’s also a test of thinking of their future.”

- Matthew Beaton, DREAM Charter High School History Department Chair & AP Research Course teacher

A Voice for Every Student

DREAM Charter High School graduate Daniela Torres is now a student at Stanford University, 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. From that moment, Daniela gained a reputation as a quiet yet insightful leader among both her peers and DREAM’s teachers and administrators. While her nature is to listen first, she isn’t afraid to speak out when important and necessary. As teacher Alison Browne explains it, she has an “impressive balance of humility and charge.”

“Students were debating a topic, and out of nowhere Daniela jumped in, and passionately shared what she thought. Everyone stopped and listened. It was an important moment for her, for her classmates, and for her teachers, and showed us that she was someone to be heard.”

- Alison Browne, DREAM East Harlem Middle School Principal

One Family, Many Dreams

The Ruiz brothers range in age from 6 to 20 years old—and between the five of them, they’ve logged collective decades in DREAM’s programs. Oldest brother Alex Jr. describes the day that the youngest Ruiz became a part of the DREAM family—as a newborn, his parents brought him directly from the hospital to his older brother’s baseball game. Their DREAM journey began when longtime employee Judy Padilla told their mom about a local program that was then called Harlem RBI. At the time, RBI was an afterschool and summer baseball league, but the Ruiz boys are quick to assert that it meant so much more than sports. Blaise described how baseball taught him to be a team player, even working his way up to become captain of his team. “It took me from selfish to selfless,” he said. Now, years later, DREAM staff helped him with his college and financial aid applications, just as they did with his older brother.

“DREAM gave me my first set of friends. It was a guiding force. Without it, I would have been lost.”

- Alex Ruiz Jr., DREAM Legend and Postsecondary Success Coordinator

Taking Wellness to Heart

After securing grant funding from the East Harlem Healthy Neighborhoods Initiative, DREAM embarked on an innovative project to use technology to improve students' activity and give them ownership of their health. Using heart rate monitors during recess at DREAM’s East Harlem Elementary School, members of the Athletics, Health, & Wellness team can monitor how quickly students achieve an active heart rate, how long they stay "in the zone," and what activities are best suited to achieving students' optimal heart rate levels. The team has gained so much knowledge from the pilot program that they see the potential to expand the project to DREAM’s other schools and pursue more data-driven projects in the future.

“This project allows us to really have our finger on the pulse, pun not intended, of what’s going on in all of our physical activity offerings. It lets us really see if we are achieving this heady goal of getting kids to move around for 60 minutes every day.”

- Athletics, Health, & Wellness Team

“I feel like I’m taking a lot with me from DREAM, especially stepping outside my comfort zone and being my own person. I’m not the girl I used to be. I feel really prepared for college.”

- Leslie Paredes ’21

“Before finding our way to DREAM we were lost. I don’t want to sound corny, but their maxim of 'DREAM is Family' is definitely what they are about. I feel like I’m part of the team not only because of my son, but because I’ve been a part of DREAM since I was 10 years old, so it’s all come full circle for me.”

- Jasmine, DREAM Mother

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