On a recent Tuesday morning in Newark, small children dressed in DREAM summer camp t-shirts filed into a small auditorium with media members, school representatives, and Devils executives to announce a new funding commitment from the Harris Family Charitable Foundation.
The newest charitable installment ensures that the DREAM program — which started out in East Harlem in 1991 and spread to different areas of New York City, could continue to expand and benefit the lives of Newark children through a continued partnership between B.R.I.C.K. Peshine Academy and DREAM Newark. Many heavy hitters were in attendance to celebrate and recognize this continued commitment to Newark youth, as the day was split into a media press conference and an outdoor recreation celebration for the announcement.
In a press release from the New Jersey devils front office, it recognized the partnership and funding that was guided by Devils and Prudential Center managing partners David Blitzer and Josh Harris. Both funders have supported the DREAM programming for many years, before DREAM expanded and began a partnership with B.R.I.C.K. Peshine Academy last year. Harris, who was in attendance for the event, spoke about the importance of giving back to the local community and the investment the Devils and Prudential Center have to Newark and its surrounding areas.
“Our job has been to make people’s lives better, and that’s what you’re seeing here. Whether it be myself or the Devils, investing in local businesses, whether it be helping kids that don’t have the same advantages many of us had growing up, or even putting on a great show at the Prudential Center — getting people to Newark — our job is to attract people in because its pretty good here,” Harris said.
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Also on hand at the event was Richard Berlin, Executive Director of DREAM, and Deputy Mayor Rahaman Muhammad, who briefly joked about the Devils hockey connection and their alliance to a program deeply rooted in baseball. His message of teamwork was the biggest takeaway for the children at the press event. “When you grow up and go out into society you’re going to find out that your role in society, no matter what you do, its going to be a team sport,” he stated.
Berlin, who spoke of over 25 years’ experience effecting the lives of inner-city children and their needs was adamant that DREAM was making a positive impact. The same program that started in a Harlem empty lot in 1991 helping 75 kids through baseball and softball had morphed into a program affecting over 2500 kids in multiple areas under his leadership. Berlin attributed much of that success to the fact the program focuses on a multitude of issues that inner-city kids face, “Not only on the ball field but equally importantly off it,” he said.
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B.R.I.C.K. Peshine Academy’s principal Ms. Chaleeta Hines was also in attendance. Ms. Hines took time to note how excited parents and children were about the program, saying, “Through the DREAM Program our kids are reading, playing and learning sports. Our parents are so excited, when I walk down the street, or come into the building, many parents are saying their child loves coming to the summer program.”
Ms. Hines’ statements were backed up by the fact that the DREAM summer program has had a 95% return rate in the past year. “This is the beginning and the continuation of the great work that is happening in this school,” she stated. Ms. Hines also attributed the hard work from teachers and staff over the past two years that turned Peshine Ave. School into one of the city’s worst performing schools to one of its best. However, Ms. Hines was also sure to note the most important individuals in attendance where the DREAM scholars themselves.
After the press conference the DREAM scholars rushed outside to enjoy a fun day in the sun at the outside basketball courts attached to the school. There they were met by the Devils team mascot, “NJ Devil”, and two New Jersey Devils Alumni Players who assisted the kids with some street hockey. For Josh Harris, this moment fulfilled everything his foundation and commitment to the program was working towards. The kids, or “Dreamers”, which Ms. Hines liked to call them all were extremely happy that the DREAM Newark summer program was here to stay for several more years.