The United States has always been a place of opportunity where people willing to work hard can accomplish anything. In recent years, however, it often seems like you need wealth, privilege, and connections to get ahead in life.
While it might seem like you need rich and powerful parents to get into college, one New Jersey teenager has just proved that privilege isn’t everything. Despite having every reason to give up, the incredible teen persevered and is showing everyone that hard work and dedication is all you really need to overcome any situation…
A New Beginning
When 17-year-old Dylan Chidick was just seven years old, he moved to the United States with his mother, Khadine Phillip, and his twin younger brothers from Trinidad. The family settled in New York and hoped that their new home would allow them to start over and find success.
Years Of Struggle
Unfortunately, their American dream didn’t work out exactly as they imagined it would. Instead, the family endured countless heartaches after becoming citizens of the United States. In the years after moving to New York, the family faced prejudice and struggled financially.
Forced To Move
According to the family, they first settled in Brooklyn after moving from Trinidad. However, they eventually were forced to move to Jersey City when the cost of their apartment rose and they were priced out of the area. At that point, Dylan enrolled at Henry Snyder High School and Phillip found work as a home health care aide.
Unexpected Medical Bills
Life as a single mother supporting three kids is incredibly difficult, but Phillip had a particularly difficult time supporting her family financially after her twin sons were diagnosed with serious heart conditions. According to doctors, both boys had a condition called aortic stenosis.
A Dangerous Condition
The condition restricts the blood flow from the left side of the heart to the right side. As a result, the boys suffered from dangerous fainting spells, which meant that Dylan had to watch them carefully whenever they were out or when Phillip was at work. To treat the condition, the twins, who are now 11 years old, had to undergo open-heart surgery.
Despite the hardships the family had endured over the years, Dylan always worked hard at school. During his years at Henry Snyder High School, Dylan became an honor student and took several advanced placement classes. However, in the summer of 2017, Dylan was tested again when his family experienced their greatest hardship yet.
On The Streets
That summer, Phillip became sick and was unable to work. Not long after being out of work, the bills became unmanageable and their landlord evicted the family when Phillip couldn’t pay the rent. “I was able to take them to a motel for the night,” Phillip told NorthJersey.com about their experience being homeless.
“I couldn’t get into the shelter until the next day,” Phillip explained. For the next month, the family lived in a shelter. According to Dylan, the shelter wasn’t an ideal place to do homework and study, be he persisted as he was determined to keep his grades up.
A Challenging Time
During that time, Dylan’s days consisted of attending his advanced placement summer classes, going to work at a recreation center, and then getting to the shelter at 9 p.m. so he could study and do his homework. “There were lights out at a certain time, and we weren’t able to be the way that we usually are at home,” Dylan said about the challenges he faced.
Asking For Help
Meanwhile, Dylan’s mom was working to get her family somewhere to live. At one point, Phillip knew she needed help and turned to Village of Families, a HUD-funded housing program. “Unfortunately, there often are not enough resources,” said Anne Christensen, director of Village of Families, part of WomenRising, a nonprofit that offers aid to women and families.
A Housing Placement
“Fortunately in their case, while in the shelter, the central intake for our continuing care was doing outreach to assess who’s out there, who needs services and who needs the services available,” Christensen told NorthJersey.com. By July of 2017, the family was placed in permanent supportive housing.
A Life-Changing Experience
According to Dylan, he had always wanted to go to college and was even more inspired after seeing what his mother had done to find the family a home. “Seeing my family become vulnerable and opening themselves up to accepting help is basically what created my drive to never experience that ever again,” Dylan told CNN.
“They don’t like to accept help. So, seeing them go through that experience made me change my ways and made me more determined to have my dreams and accept help from others to basically plan my future out correctly,” Dylan explained to NBC News about the moment he got serious about his dream of going to college.
Putting The Work In
“He came home one day and said ‘Mom do you want me to go to college?’ ” Phillip told NorthJersey.com. “And I said ‘Yup. You’re going to be the first one in our family to go to college.'” After that conversation, Dylan spent countless night studying and preparing for the SAT.
After taking the SAT twice, Dylan picked out almost 20 colleges to apply to. While college applications can be expensive, he got help through the fee-waiver program available to first-generation college students and applicants from low-income families. “I wasn’t really sure if I wasn’t going to get into college because I don’t have the perfect grades or perfect GPA or perfect SAT score,” Dylan said.
Worth The Effort
“But I knew that when college admissions read my essay and see me as a whole person, I’d be OK,” said the senior class president and Honor Society member, who wrote about racism in his college essay. Recently, all of Dylan’s hard work proved worthwhile after he got accepted into college.
So far, Dylan has been accepted into 17 of the 18 colleges he applied to. He is still waiting to hear back from the College of New Jersey, which is his top choice. “I was really excited because I’m going to be the first person in my family to go to college,” said Dylan, who is excited to study political science and history wherever he chooses to attend college.
A Bright Future
“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,” said Dylan. “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.”
A Role Model
In the wake of one of the largest college admissions scandals in the country, Dylan is proud that his story shows people what hard work can do. “I’m used to being a role model already because I have two younger brothers. I’ve always known I have someone looking up to me,” Dylan explained.
“But now there’s kids that I never met before saying you’re an inspiration. It makes me feel great inside and it warms my heart to know there are other people out there having the same situation as me and using my story as an example to push through it,” Dylan said.