Fueling Our Future: A DREAM Summer with the New York Yankees

by | Sep 16, 2021 | 0 comments

New York Yankees Senior Executive Chef Matt Gibson put the finishing touches on his special avocado toast recipe with the squeeze of a lemon and held it up for review. But the audience staring back at him wasn’t the usual season ticket holders in the Legends Hospitality Suite. It was a classroom full of DREAM University middle school students participating in the Yankees’ Fueling Our Future initiative, launched in partnership with Nike this past summer to provide children in underserved communities with the health and wellness skills needed to excel in the classroom, on the field, and in their daily lives.

“The way you chip away at barriers that exist is to provide access,” said Yankees Senior Vice President of Community Relations Brian Smith, who led the initiative. “Things like how to prep affordable healthy meal options, how to take care of yourself physically on a daily basis, and how to take care of yourself mentally—we wanted to show kids what they need to do to be running on all cylinders, and put them in a lane to become our future leaders.”

Through Fueling Our Future, DREAM students participated in five weekly virtual seminars with Yankees employees who are experts in their respective fields and provided guidance on mental health, physical fitness, and healthy eating. Gibson, who oversees all dining at Yankee Stadium, led two sessions focused on nutritional lessons, like label misconceptions, the dangers of poor long-term eating habits, and the proper way to select foods that fuel the body—in each session, students prepared and customized their own healthy meals with food supplied by the Yankees. In addition, Yankees Associate Director of Mental Conditioning Chris Passarella led discussions aimed at promoting positive thinking, while further sessions detailed the importance of remaining physically active.

“We had staff members jumping up to be involved,” said Smith. “Because of what this program represents, everyone was honored to participate.”

Fueling Our Future falls under the auspices of the Yankees Diversity & Inclusion Committee, which focuses on identifying and combating disparities and systemic inequities in our society. Smith added that a special inspiration for Fueling Our Future was the legacy of Jackie Robinson, the first African-American man to play Major League Baseball.

“The way you chip away at barriers that exist is to provide access—we wanted to show kids what they need to do to be running on all cylinders, and put them in a lane to become our future leaders.”

Brian Smith, New York Yankees Senior Vice President of Community Relations

“We wanted to recognize the work [Robinson] put in to make it possible for people like me and others to do what they do,” Smith said. “These initial DREAM students will be that first group to represent that access and inclusion [via this program].”

The inaugural summer of Fueling Our Future culminated in a September 5 trip to Yankee Stadium, where DREAM’s students saw the Yanks square off against the Orioles and were treated to box seats, new Nike gear, and the opportunity to announce the game’s starting line-ups on the YES Network.

“Our students learned a lot this summer through the Fueling Our Future sessions,” said DREAM East Harlem Middle School Dean of Programs Reuben Harris, who worked with the Yankees to implement the initiative. “All of the sessions were thoughtful and engaging and gave our students access to further their own physical and mental health. Our scholars were treated to the experience of a lifetime.”

After such a successful first summer for Fueling Our Future, Smith said he hopes DREAM’s participation can serve as a model for the Yankees to increase the program’s impact, potentially growing Fueling Our Future at DREAM, throughout New York City, and, even nationwide.

“To have an organization like the Yankees support DREAM on a regular basis is tremendous,” added Harris. “Our students feel valued and important to collaborate with such a celebrated and successful baseball team. We are excited to continue to work together as one team to lift our scholars up towards their dreams.”


<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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