DREAM in East Harlem teaches life lessons through teamwork and academics

Twenty-seven years ago, an abandoned lot in New York City’s East Harlem neighborhood became the birthplace for DREAM, an organization that started as a little league baseball program in an underserved community. Over time, the organization built upon a unique opportunity to combine the life lessons found on the baseball field, such as teamwork and communication, with the academic structure of a school, to build resiliency and create a positive future for local youth. Today, DREAM serves more than 2,500 youth in East Harlem, the South Bronx, and Newark and uses a comprehensive approach that involves working with youth during the school day, after-school, and summer hours.

In 2007, DREAM was named a Bank of America Neighborhood Builders® recipient. With the award, the organization received $200,000 in flexible grant funding, and leadership development and training for its executive director and an emerging leader in the organization. “I really think that the Neighborhood Builders award put on us the map,” said Richard Berlin, Executive Director of DREAM. “The award gave us the power to create more opportunities for kids to play and learn, as an organization. It helped us to grow and help our kids, our families and our neighbors achieve their greatest dreams.”

As Executive Director, Berlin attended the Neighborhood Builders leadership development and training program, and he credits the network of nonprofit leaders he met as a key resource in DREAM’s expansion over the years. In 2008, DREAM opened DREAM Charter School, which now serves children from pre-K through eighth grade. In 2017, DREAM Charter High School opened, beginning with an inaugural ninth-grade class and growing one grade per year.

“A lot of the kids we have here deal with things they have to overcome. And our academics and the programs we provide make sure that they are able to learn and overcome obstacles and be comfortable with adversity,” says Ja’keel Daniels, a sixth-grade literature teacher at DREAM.

Since 2004, Bank of America’s Neighborhood Builders program has helped advance sustainable communities by investing more than $220 million in 49 communities — partnering with more than 1,000 nonprofits and more than 2,000 nonprofit leaders and counting.

Learn more about how the Neighborhood Builders program helps nonprofit partners advance economic mobility and supports skills development for nonprofit leaders, powering nonprofits like DREAM to build thriving communities.

Originally published 12/3/2018

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