By Camille Furst
Tears welled up in his eyes as he learned of his acceptance to his dream school. The College’s big envelope and blue and gold pennant awaited him with a surprise in the principal’s office of his high school. Through illness in the family, his mom’s loss of employment and eventual homelessness, his acceptance letter unfolded a story of victory amidst his life’s challenges.
Dylan Chidick, a first-generation immigrant from Trinidad and a senior at Henry Snyder High School in Jersey City, New Jersey, received his acceptance to the College the morning of March 19 — his 18th acceptance overall, but the one he was looking forward to the most.
“This is the happiest day of my life,” he told CBS New York in an interview on March 19.
College President Kathryn Foster sent out a campus-wide email before CBS broadcasted the story, saying that it was worth the breaking the promise of a quiet spring break.
Having been born and raised in Trinidad until the age of 7, Chidick did not realize how different the U.S. was until he immigrated with his family.
“I grew up in the countryside,” he said in an interview with The Signal. “I grew up in a wooden house with five other people. And then we all went to America. I didn’t know what air conditioning was … it was really humbling.”
While the U.S. brought him and his family more opportunity, his family faced some challenges as well. Chidick’s two younger brothers developed a severe heart condition that put a strain on the family. Those illnesses, coupled with the fact that his mother, Khadine Phillip, lost her job, landed them in a homeless shelter from May to mid-August of 2017.
Chidick described the shelter as constantly nerve-wracking, as he and his family never knew the true intentions of the other people there.
“Even though we made some good friends … everyone would be looking for a way out as fast as they can,” Chidick said. “So you never knew what anyone would do to achieve that goal. We were always scared that … our stuff was going to get taken away (or) someone would break into our room … I knew that I never wanted to end up back in that situation again so I knew that I had to work harder than ever.”
Chidick had known since he was a young boy that he wanted to go to college and become a lawyer. He found his family was supportive of his dreams. Chidick, however, questioned whether he would get into any of the schools he applied to. For him, the college admissions process was long and strenuous.
“I remember we were waiting for one more college — The College of New Jersey. He would love to go to that College,” Phillip told CBS News.
Having already gotten into 17 schools by March 12, including the University of Dayton, Rowan University and Quinnipiac University, he was still waiting on the College.
On the morning of March 19, Chidick was called to his high school principal’s office, thinking he must be in trouble. He had no idea what else it could be. When he noticed the College’s Director of Admissions Grecia Montero, he was shocked.
“‘My family went through a lot and there has been a lot of people saying, “you can’t do that,” or “you’re not going to achieve this,” and me getting these acceptances kind of verifies what I have been saying. I can do it and I will do it,’” he told CBS News.
Amidst the recent college admissions scandals involving a number of wealthy celebrities reportedly bribing members of elite colleges to admit their children to their schools, Chidick’s experience is a “feel-good story … in a week when so much of the news surrounding college admissions has been negative,” Foster said.
“I just think it’s unfair that people who have these kinds of connections are given priority, but it just proves that people who are not born with the same privileges and connections have to work ten times harder to achieve the same goals,” Chidick said.
Although not officially committed yet, Chidick said that he will be committing to the College soon and is excited to be a “part of the college life.”
“There were many times I felt I wanted to give up,” he said. “But if you find that one person or one group of people that will help you push through that obstacle, then you will be able to achieve great things in the future –– keep going, keep pushing.”