The American Dream Charter School Delivers on Its Promise

The American Dream Charter School Delivers on Its Promise

When the American Dream Charter School, a bilingual grade 6-12 public charter school in the south Bronx opened its doors in 2014, the overwhelmingly-immigrant parents who enrolled their children did so in the hope that the school would help them achieve a better life.

This year, for American Dream’s first graduating class of 64 students, those parent’s dreams became a reality.

Of the 64 students set to graduate, already 44 have been accepted in at least one college, and overall, those 44 students have a total of 219 college acceptance letters in hand.  More graduates are expected to receive acceptance letters when CUNY issues their decisions in the coming weeks.

Those numbers would be impressive for any school, but for American Dream, with a student body that is 100% minority, 90% immigrant, and 96% low income, it is almost unheard of.  Even more impressive, 93% of their students will be the first in their families to attend college.

The colleges they plan to attend run the gamut, from twenty SUNY campuses to metro-New York colleges such as Hofstra and Adelphi, to nationally-renowned schools such as Penn State, Xavier University and the Culinary Institute of America.

Given the numerous financial and cultural challenges that American Dream families face, the school recognized that just generating good grades for their students was not going to be enough.  Because only a handful of their student have parents college degrees, the school needed to prepare the students and their families for every aspect of the college admissions process, from admissions essays to financial aid applications.

The hurdles Araceli Betancourt faced are emblematic of an American Dream family.  Ms. Betancourt is an immigrant, and lost her husband when her son was in 7th grade.  She does not speak English and was very unfamiliar with the college application process prior to last fall, when she became engulfed in the process with her son, Daniel Tepeyac, who led the way.  To bridge this language barrier, her son helped her use Google Translate to communicate regarding the application process, including how to apply for financial aid.  Despite their long odds, her son has received five college acceptance letters to St. John’s, Johnson and Wales, Norwich University, Long Island University and Buffalo State.

“We are always looking for the best for our children,” said Ms. Betancourt. “This process for me is an amazing process because it is something I never imagined would actually happen.  Now that he is being accepted, this is surreal- for both of us.  American Dream Charter School has been our family–a great support.”

For American Dream founder and Head of School Melissa Melkonian, the achievements of the class of 2021 are just the start.


“We couldn’t be prouder of our first graduating class, but we intend to reach higher,” said Mrs. Melkonian, who like many of her students is a Mexican American, first-generation college attendee and grew up in El Paso, Texas.  “Our school’s goal is to deliver for our students the dream of every parent in America: a better life for their children.”


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