Meeting Dylan Chidick for the first time, you’d be hard pressed to see him as someone who overcame homelessness and many other challenges to achieve the remarkable feat of being accepted to 18 colleges and universities.
At 17, Chidick has lived through a host of issues that provide him with ample experience. He will be the first member of his family to attend college.
He doesn’t boast about it. If anything, he plays down successes and looks to the future when he hopes to make the world a better place.
“I want to major in political science and history,” he said. “I would like to help deal with some of the social issues.”
He said he encountered racism, which he’d not experienced it prior to coming to the United States, and recalls looks he got when going into stores that puzzled him at the time.
Chidick moved with his family from Trinidad when he was 7 years old, and lived in Brooklyn for a while.
Crossing the river
The family moved to Jersey City in 2016. Chidick’s twin brothers suffer from aortic stenosis, a condition that restricts blood flow from one side of the heart to the other. At one point, Chidick’s mother became ill, could not work, and the family was evicted.
They stayed in a hotel for one night before they got space in the York Street Project, which provides temporary housing for homeless people.
Chidick said it wasn’t easy trying to keep up with his studies while facing such overwhelming family challenges. Students seeking to attend college often need to show a record of extracurricular activities. Chidick persevered, even doing community service. He is currently senior class president at Snyder High School and has been involved in numerous clubs and other activities.
All this while working two part-time jobs. “It wore me down,” he said.
A roof over their heads
In August 2017, WomenRising, which helps people with disabilities and other issues, stepped in and provided permanent housing. A family that has been in two or more shelters is considered homeless, and Chidick’s brothers fit criteria for providing housing under a federal program.
Chidick said that part of his motivation to attend college came from seeing his mother’s struggle to provide for the family.
He recalled how delighted he was in October when he received his first acceptance, from New England College in New Hampshire. He got a call from his school principal at Snyder High School.
“I thought I was in trouble,” he said. “She just wanted to tell me personally, and I liked the idea that I could say I was accepted.”
After that, there were 17 more acceptances, national media attention, and on March 19 he was a honored by Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.
The letters pour in
“We would get an acceptance every Saturday,” Chidick said. “My mother would wait at the mailbox for the next one to come.”
He said he wasn’t sure any college would accept him because he didn’t have a perfect grade-point average or SAT score, but he felt he had a chance.
He relied instead on his essay, hoping the admissions people would see him as a whole person.
He did not write about his homelessness, but about the racism he encountered when he first came to the United States and how people did not see who he really was.
Chidick has received a full scholarship for tuition and room and board from the Give Something Back Foundation. He chose The College of New Jersey.
“I attended there for the New Jersey Association of Student Councils Convention,” he said. “I’ve made friends there and feel comfortable there.”