The Class of 2023: Ishmael Manon

by | Jun 15, 2023 | 0 comments

For Ishmael Manon, a native of the Bronx who became part of the DREAM Charter School network in ninth grade, the college application process was surprisingly easy. Starting as early as 11th grade, his teachers and staff—including the team in DREAM’s Office of College Access and Postsecondary Success—worked with him to research his top schools, outline possible majors, and complete his applications. The early preparation made the process less stressful, and when all was said and done, Ishmael found himself choosing between 10 college acceptances, and a lot of great opportunities.

It was then, however, that Ishmael realized making a decision was actually going to be the hard part. His deciding factors kept coming down to cost, rather than the best fit for him and his future plans. Ishmael’s first choice, Binghamton University, had the strong business programs that he wanted, as well as a lively campus community and competitive athletics. It was also the top choice of Ishmael’s DREAM advisors, who knew the school’s graduation rate for minority students was significantly higher than his next best option, a huge factor in a student’s likelihood to persist through college.

“Money is the first thing people think about when they go to college. Close the Gap will help get you there.”

– Ishmael Manon ’23

Ishmael’s college counselor advised him to apply for DREAM’s Close the Gap initiative, which provides critical funding for students whose first-choice college did not meet their full financial need. He was awarded a grant of $6,000 per year, making Binghamton a reality. And, Ishmael wasn’t alone. This year, DREAM offered $68,000—an average of $8,500/year—to cover the financial aid gap for eight graduating seniors to attend their first choice college. Since the initiative started, DREAM Close the Gap recipients are collectively attending schools with an average institutional graduation that is 6.5x the national average for low-income students, a number that also exceeds the national graduation rate for all students.

This July, Ishmael will enroll in Binghamton’s Educational Opportunity Program, which will give him an early taste of college life and the chance to take several introductory courses before his freshman year starts this fall. Because of Close the Gap, he had agency over his college decision, and the opportunity to find the place that will best support his future.

“Money is the first thing people think about when they go to college,” he says. “Close the Gap will help get you there.”

You can read more about the DREAM Charter High School Class of 2023 in the report below, and mark your calendars for June 23, when DREAM Charter High School will celebrate all the work of this amazing senior class at its graduation ceremony. Until then, follow along as we laud this class, tell some of our student’s special stories, and gear up for the big day.

<a href="" 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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