Dream Academy Poised to Make History

Dream Academy Inaugural Cohort Poised to Make APHS History in 2020
Posted on 10/31/2019

Dream 2When Kobe Miller graduated from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in June 2016, he didn’t fully understand the importance of the decision he would make just days later. Kobe is one of 16 students who are members of the first cohort of the Asbury Park Dream Academy, an early-college high school program cohosted by the school district and Brookdale Community College, who will be graduating in 2020 with an Associate’s Degree in Social Sciences and a high school diploma.

“The Dream Academy pushes you to do the greatest things you can,” said Kobe, the oldest of four siblings who vows to be the first in his family to graduate college. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Just do it!”

Miller, who plans to study music production and engineering, is one of three males in the cohort. Looking back over the course of his four-year journey, he recalled his greatest challenge – staying determined.

“Sometimes you think to yourself if it’s really worth it because things get really hard,” he said.

Despite the many challenges he and his peers may have faced at the onset, they fade in comparison to the reward they are poised to receive – enrollment as a college junior at the age of 18.

Cohort member Micah Wright recalls getting off to a “rocky” start.

“We were the guinea pigs since we were the first class but as we started progressing and got older, things got better,” said Wright, who values the experience but regrets missing out on some traditional high school experiences such as being homecoming queen because her classmates didn’t know her. “It’s worth it because I get a head start so I know what college life is going to be.”

Micah, who wants to be a college professor or social worker, is proud to be a member of the Blue Bishops’ inaugural class.

“People used to look at Asbury Park High School as bad,” she said. “But I have been offered opportunities that will prepare me for the rest of my life. I am an example that good things can come out of Asbury.”

When the cohort began in June 2016, it had 20 students. However, since that time some have fallen by the wayside. Brooke Cottman almost became one of those statistics as she struggled with balancing the high school and college curriculum in her freshman year. To better position herself for success, she took additional classes independent of the group.

“I realized college isn’t just fun and games. I had to adjust,” she said. “It was kind of hard for me to shake my childish ways.”

When Brooke, who desires to be a psychologist, reflects on the experience she says it was definitely worth it. Receiving a degree from Brookdale is also extra special because both her parents are alumni.

“I am ready to move on to a four-year college because I learned how to persevere through my trials and tribulations, Brooke said, noting the biggest adjustments were adjusting to the pace and college workload.

During a typical semester, the students take four classes that range can range from Mandarin and Sociology to English and Statistics. On all days except Friday, they meet at Asbury Park High School where they are bused to Brookdale Community College’s Lincroft campus for their first class at 8:30 a.m.

Similar to Brooke, classmate Ashlee Betanco experienced challenges not only in the curriculum but also as a result of a language barrier. Ashlee immigrated to the United States from Nicaragua as a freshman.

“It was harder for me taking college classes and barely knowing the language,” she said. “At first I didn’t know how to communicate with the teachers and they didn’t know what I was saying.”

Thanks to her enrollment in the Dream Academy, her desire to become a pediatric nurse appears within reach.

“You can always reach your goal. Everything in life is possible,” said Brooke, who hopes to set a positive example for her three younger siblings by balancing a part-time job and playing sports with her enrollment in the Dream Academy. “You can go in life as far as you like.”

Throughout their journey, several members of the Asbury Park School District have been instrumental is the program’s success from Superintendent Sancha K. Gray and Deborah Sylvia, Director of School Counseling Services, to Janice Kroposky, Supervisor of Curriculum & Instruction, to Toni M. Terry, Dream Academy Para Professional.

“I'm really proud of these students and how hard they have worked to make it through the program.” Sylvia said.

 

Kroposky is equally excited about this class as it was the first group she taught since arriving in the Asbury Park School District in 2017 from Kean University. She is responsible for ensuring high school classes are rigorous so the transition to college is more seamless.

 

“I have seen a tremendous amount of growth socially and academically. Their level of maturity is astounding,” Kroposky credited Terry in part as she said goes above and beyond to meet students’ needs. “The students have matured into responsible, intelligent young adults.”

The other members of the Dream Academy 2020 class are: Nya Benjamin, Brooke Cottman, Natasha Crenshaw, Bryan Cruz, MyLeah Estes, An’Yea Myles, E’niah Preston, Angel Salmoran, Odalys Sarmiento, Kayla Steward, Elijah Tulley, , Ana Vasquez–Machuca, and Evelyn Villa-Carasco.

In addition to the first cohort, the district has a junior class that includes 20 students, 21 sophomores and 20 freshmen, making a total of 77 students on track to reap the benefits from this unique educational partnership.

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