One thing you should never do is tell this teenager the odds — Dylan Chidick has made it through immigrating to another country, providing for his sick mother, and battling homelessness. Now, the 17-year-old from New Jersey has been accepted to college.
Not just one college, but 17.
Dylan and his family came to the United States from their home country of Trinidad when he was 7. He, his mother, and his two younger brothers made things work for a time — and then his mother, Khadine, became sick.
No longer able to work, she couldn’t pay their bills. Eventually, they were evicted from their home and spent two months living in a homeless shelter.
Thankfully, they were able to find a new home in Jersey City when an agency called Women Rising intervened.
But the experience cemented something for Dylan: he was determined to go to college.
He applied to about 20 colleges and universities but worried that he wouldn’t get accepted, since his grades and SAT score weren’t the best they could possibly be. His family’s time in the homeless shelter had knocked him off-kilter, causing his grades to suffer.
“I was so focused on never getting back in that situation that I was just … my studies took a hit,” said Dylan. “This senior year, I made a pact like: Get straight A’s again.”
So, on top of bettering his grades, Dylan wrote a college essay that he hoped would sway admissions offices everywhere.
And, to his surprise, it did. The 17-year-old has now been accepted to 17 colleges and he’s still waiting to hear from more.
“I was really excited because I’m going to be the first person in my family to go to college,” 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.”
Dylan says he was inspired by his mother’s courage.
But even more than that, he was inspired by her willingness to reach out for help when she needed it. Dylan has come to realize that it’s more important to be vulnerable and ask for help than to be proud and struggle through on your own. His mother’s example showed him how important community is.
“Seeing my family become vulnerable and opening themselves up to accepting help is basically what created my drive to never experience that ever again,” said Dylan.
He was hesitant at first to let people in his own life know what he and his family were going through, including his high school teachers.
“The entire administration staff was very supportive but I didn’t want anyone to know about it at first,” he said. “But I realized it was OK to let people in.”
Dylan was dedicated to applying himself at school. He visited different clubs and even became senior class president. He was also in the Honor Society and sat on student council.
Dylan hasn’t chosen a college yet but he wants to study political science and history.
And he received even better news: wherever he wants to go, his tuition and board will be covered.
He’s toying with the idea of being a lawyer. But whatever he chooses, Dylan is looking forward, not back.
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