DREAM Fueled a Fire: Legend Darlene De La Cruz’s Path to Wesleyan University

by | Mar 24, 2021 | 0 comments

DREAM Legend Darlene De Lac Cruz

DREAM Legend Darlene De La Cruz wasn’t planning to apply to Wesleyan University until she was approached by the school’s softball coach, who was looking to recruit her. A participant in DREAM’s sports-based youth development programs since she was a child, Darlene jumped at the chance to continue playing the sport she loves in college, and soon fell in love with Wesleyan, too.

“I liked Wesleyan because they prioritize the ‘student’ aspect of being a student-athlete,” she said.

But the path forward wasn’t so easy. A 2020 graduate from Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics, Darlene was originally waitlisted at her top choice, then denied acceptance. Facing the prospect of attending another university she was less excited about, in the middle of a global pandemic, Darlene instead forged an unlikely path in the hopes of strengthening her chances a second time around.

“DREAM taught me how to put myself out there. Without that quality, I wouldn’t have been able to do this.”

Darlene De La Cruz, DREAM Legend

“I belonged at Wesleyan,” Darlene said. “When I was weighing my options, I knew I wanted to use my time wisely and grow my resume. It was a hard decision to make—I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. But at the end of the day, I thought, ‘This is my life and my decision.’”

To that end, Darlene took a gap year and pursued work at CityMD as a patient care representative during the height of the COVID-19 outbreak. There, the future pre-med student got her first taste of working in medicine, and learned that being a doctor is more than just the science. “I want to be part of helping people,” she said. “It’s interacting. It’s the relationships you build.”

During this time, Darlene also took online classes, and kept communicating with Wesleyan about her continued interest and progress. She also kept working with DREAM’s Legends program, and DREAM Director of Post-Secondary Success Matt Gonzalez helped her with her new application.

The work paid off. In December 2020, Darlene officially earned herself a spot in the Class of 2025 at Wesleyan—where she’ll also play softball.

“I could have said, ‘I’m not going to take this risk,’” Darlene noted. “But DREAM taught me how to put myself out there. Without that quality, I wouldn’t have been able to do this. DREAM fueled a fire.”

<a href="https://blog.wearedream.org/author/liz_white/" target="_self">DREAM</a>


DREAM started in 1991 as Harlem RBI, a volunteer-run Little League for 75 kids in East Harlem. Three decades later, the organization serves 2,500 youth across East Harlem and the South Bronx through a growing network of inclusive, extended-day, extended-year charter schools and community sports-based youth development programs. By developing an education model that is responsive to the unique academic and social needs of every child, DREAM is creating a future where all children are equipped to fulfill their vision of success.

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