Dreaming Together: 30 Years of Impact

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.

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.


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.


Our Legends alumni numbers will grow from 170 currently to approximately 500 by 2025 and 900 by 2030—with accompanying program supports that include career exposure, pre-college bridge programming, near-peer mentorship opportunities, and so much more.


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


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.

And 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.

For DREAM Legends

If you’re an alumni of Harlem RBI and/or DREAM, you know that you’ll always have a home here. Our Legends work at DREAM, volunteer with us, serve on our boards, and send their own little ones to our schools – in other words, they see DREAM as a place to pay it all forward.

If you’re looking to reconnect with DREAM and find your own ways to give back, what better time than now? When you submit your contact information by filling out the form below, we’ll stay in touch with information about alumni meetups, volunteering opportunities, career resources, and more.

Plus: Want to support our Legends directly? Partnering with DREAM allows you and your company to provide pathways to internships, jobs, and more for DREAM alumni.

Join the Celebration

Coming soon. Check back or sign up for our mailing list to stay updated on opportunities to gather virtually in 2021 to celebrate DREAM’s work.

Share your your own DREAM memories, photos, and reflections on social media with the hashtag #WhenWeDREAMTogether. Plus, stay connected in our anniversary year and beyond by following us @wearedream.

Want to spread the word about DREAM and ask your friends, colleagues, and family to join you in contributing to celebrate DREAM’s 30-year history and help build our future? Check out our peer-to-peer fundraising toolkit.

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.