There is a particular moment in my undergraduate studies that still stands out in my mind as though it were yesterday.
My literature professor was opining on a particular book and explained that the work in question had lots of inspirational material. It was one of those titles that urged readers to secure the American Dream through their own personal responsibility and hard work. However, my professor quickly added, “We all know that the American Dream is dead.”
That casual dismissal of one of the core tenets of the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave floored me. I suspect that it would also floor a 17-year-old high-school student named Dylan Chidick.
According to CNN, Chidick had every reason to feel bitter about his past. A child of Trinidadian immigrants, he endured countless trials.
New Jersey teen gets 17 college acceptance letters, overcomes homelessness
Inspired by his single mother’s fight to get him and his brothers out of homelessness, 17-year-old Dylan Chidick is determined never to let his family be in that situation again https://t.co/Pa4odBWuGO pic.twitter.com/jeXidvndOh
— CBS Sunday Morning ? (@CBSSunday) March 13, 2019
For one thing, he grew up without a father. The oldest of three siblings, he watched his younger twin brothers struggle with serious heart conditions.
However, the most challenging part had to be his home — or, to speak more specifically, his lack of one. See, the Chidick family slumped into homelessness more than once, spending a good deal of time on the streets.
“Seeing my family become vulnerable and opening themselves up to accepting help is basically what created my drive to never experience that ever again,” Chidick said.
He added that his mother’s grit inspired him to make a better life for himself.
Rather than suffer in silence, his mom, Khadine Phillip, took a humbling step and reached out to the nonprofit Women Rising. The charitable group helped secure housing for the family.
Roseann Mazzeo, who works with Women Rising, told KABC-TV, “She is a great example in doing all that’s necessary to help her children.” Chidick agreed with that assessment.
“Going through homelessness let me know that there’s going to be obstacles, but as long as (our family is) together, we can get through it,” he said.
In this young man’s case, though, he’ll do more than merely get through things.
See, Dylan applied himself in school, and he became the president of his senior class.
He also earned a spot on the Honor Society. Then he served on a student council that encompassed every student body in his home of Jersey City, New Jersey.
Add to that his involvement in basically every club his school had to offer, and Dylan had a formidable college resume going. He took advantage of it by applying to 20 schools, all of which waived their application fees due to his fiscal situation.
So far, he has gotten into 17 of them.
“I have to have a lot of determination,” he said. “There has been a lot of people saying, ‘You’re not going to achieve this.’ And me, getting these acceptance letters kind of verifies what I have been saying, that I can do it, and I will do it.”
Dylan will become the first member of his family to go to college. And if that’s not the American Dream, I don’t know what is.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.