Officials from the Asbury Park School District and Brookdale Community College signed off Aug. 4 on the Asbury Park Dream Academy Early College Program, which will allow eligible students to earn an associate degree by the time they graduate from high school.
Beginning this fall, 15 Asbury Park High School (APHS) freshmen will supplement their traditional coursework with college-level courses taught by Brookdale faculty in Asbury Park.
In their junior year Dream Academy students will begin taking courses at Brookdale’s Higher Education Center in Wall, before becoming full-time Brookdale students and completing their senior year on the college’s Lincroft campus. Successful Dream Academy students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree in social science, ready to begin their junior year of college.
The students are also offered a wide range of academic services and support, including a four-week college preparatory program held this summer at Brookdale in Lincroft. Running five days per week from July 11 through Aug. 4, the program included class trips, museum tours, yoga classes and seminars on leadership, team building, note taking, research, literature, ceramics, Chinese culture and World War II history.
At the conclusion of the preparatory program on Aug. 4, the students gave a college-level presentation on Chinese culture to a capacity crowd of parents, siblings and representatives from the school district, Brookdale, the Asbury Park City Council, the Brookdale Board of Trustees and the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders.
The presentation, held in Brookdale’s Student Life Center, was followed by a ceremonial signing and an official kickoff for the Dream Academy program.
“I am blown away by our students’ talent and dedication to this program,” said Asbury Park School District Superintendent Lamont Repollet. “The journey is going to be challenging, but you have the support of all of us in the administration, on the board and at Brookdale. Today, we have the chance to talk about you as college students, not just high school students. I am extremely proud.”
Incoming Dream Academy students also spoke about their hopes for the program and the impact it could have on their academic and professional goals.
“One person can change a community, or change a society. That’s why I’m here,” said student E’Niah Preston, who chose the Dream Academy over a local private high school. “I want to work hard. I want to achieve. In truth, I don’t know what occupation I want to have yet. The only thing that matters is that I want to leave a legacy. I want to show my parents, I want to show my siblings, I want to show everyone I know and love that I can actually do it.”
Those sentiments were echoed by fellow Dream Academy student De’jia Dawkins, who said the preparatory program has already had a significant impact on the incoming class.
“I learned that you have to think with the end in mind. You have to get things done as soon as they come to you or you are going to pass up a great opportunity,” said Dawkins. “It was a very eye opening experience, and I am very proud to be here today with my classmates. We are all going to be successful in life.”
Other speakers included Brookdale President Maureen Murphy, Asbury Park Board of Education President Angela Ahbez-Anderson, Asbury Park Councilwoman Yvonne Clayton and Monmouth County Freeholders Thomas Arnone, Serena DiMaso and John Curley.
The Dream Academy is the second partnership between Brookdale and the Asbury Park School District announced this year. In June, college and district officials joined with the Jules L. Plangere Jr. Family Foundation to launch the Asbury Park College Promise, which will offer last-dollar scholarships to eligible APHS graduates good for up to 64 credits toward a Brookdale associate degree.
Check out more photos of the Dream Academy announcement program here.