For weeks on end, Dylan Chidick would wait by his mailbox for the postal worker.
He had applied to more than a dozen colleges, not an unusual move for an ambitious student who served as class president at Henry Snyder High School in Jersey City. In November, the packets and letters started arriving, and they kept coming into the New Year, week after week in a perpetual cycle of anxiousness and excitement. His mother would ask to open the envelopes. They contained very good news.
In total, the teenager said, he has been accepted to 17 colleges — including New England College, Quinnipiac University and Rowan University. Ever ambitious, he said he was waiting to hear from one more school: his top choice, the College of New Jersey.
But to reach this point, he had already overcome an obstacle that not even his friends at school knew about until his story made the news this week.
For about three months during the summer of 2017, Chidick, his mother and two younger brothers were homeless and lived in a Jersey City shelter, after his mother lost her job and was unable to pay rent.
“It was really scary” he told The Washington Post about his time at the shelter. “There’s a lot of people I didn’t know. You never know the intentions of everyone around you.”
The shelter also disrupted his studies, with curfews butting with his habit of doing homework late into the night. In August of 2017, they were placed in permanent housing in Jersey City with help from a local organization called WomenRising, but the experience had shaken him.
“I was so focused on never getting back in that situation that I was just … my studies took a hit,” Chidick said. His normally excellent grades dipped in the final quarter of sophomore year. But after a bumpy junior year, he doubled down on his studies. “This senior year, I made a pact like: Get straight A’s again,” he said. In addition, he toiled at studying for his college entrance exams.
The hard work paid off in the form of a small mountain of acceptance letters that arrived through the winter. “It feels really great,” Chidick said. “I accomplished something, and I feel like I’m making my family proud.”
Chidick was born in Trinidad and moved to the United States with his mother, Khadine Phillip, in 2008. He has 11-year-old twin brothers, who suffer from heart conditions. “My brothers have a role model to look up to, and I’m really happy that I could be that person,” he said.
Phillip told The Post that he would be the first person in their family to go to college.
Chidick ecstatically revealed to CBS News on Thursday that he had just gotten another life-changing call: Someone had offered to pay for his tuition and boarding, wherever he chose to go.
“He is quietly toiling away on his life plan,” said Anne Miller Christensen, director of Village of Families, a division of WomenRising that secured Chidick’s housing. “He deserves the positive outcomes that he’s getting because he’s working really hard for them.”
Christensen described Chidick as humble but determined and had spoken to him about his ambitions. “He said he wants to be a lawyer because there’s a lot of injustice in the world, and [he’d] like to see people have the opportunity to have justice,” she recalled.
While the months of homelessness in his past played a significant role in his high school years, Chidick is more interested in looking toward his future.
“I’m not going to let that one part define me,” he said.