United in Fellowship: DREAM x NFBLME

by | Feb 27, 2024 | 0 comments

Research has proven that educational outcomes are stronger when students of color have access to teachers who share their backgrounds or life experiences. Yet, the percentage of educators who identify as Black or Latino across the country is staggeringly low, greatly outpaced by the growing diversity among students. At DREAM, where the percentage of students who identify as Black and/or Hispanic/Latino (96%) is more than double the national average, representation across the organization is more necessary and urgent than ever.

“Growing up in New York City district schools, I could count on one hand the number of male educators I had, and only two were of color,” says DREAM’s Chief Operating Officer Raymie Fernandez. “My life took the direction it did because of a Latino male educator. He has changed my life and it’s a big reason why I got into education.”

Developing Through Fellowship
As a school network leader, Raymie Fernandez is one of several DREAM staff members who have joined the National Fellowship of Black and Latino Male Educators (NFBLME) in an effort to not only grow in their respective roles, but to support the long-term growth of male educators of color. As NFBLME fellows, he and five of his colleagues develop their professional skills, receive direct coaching, and broaden their career and personal networks, all while being a part of a movement to increase the number, longevity, and impact of Black and Latino males in the education sector.

“I’ve never had a supervisor or mentor that was a man of color in this space, so being in a room in fellowship or in a workshop with people with this shared experience—that look like me, talk like me—it’s really impactful,” says Matthew Gonzalez, DREAM’s Director of Postsecondary Success. “The first time I looked around, I got goosebumps. It really stood out to me.”

Founded in 2020, NFBLME’s purpose is to create a dynamic, life-changing, empowering fellowship for Black and Latino males that springboards them into principal, senior-level, and C-suite roles. With a focus on skill development, mentoring and coaching, and building camaraderie among fellows, NFBLME utilizes three pathways (Rising, Senior, and C-Level Leaders) to identify, increase, retain, and sustain the number of effective Black and Latino males in the leadership pipeline.

While within their two-year fellowship cohort, fellows attend fall and winter retreats, participate in workshops, deepen their emotional intelligence, and build connections with other Black and Latino male educators and executives around the country.

“The NFBLME sessions have been some of the most transformative professional development sessions I’ve ever had as an educator,” says Frederick Porter, DREAM East Harlem Middle School Academic Dean. “I’m able to bring something back into my professional space—something I’ve learned in PD, or something I’ve learned from another fellow who is going through the same things.”

The rise of NFBLME participation by DREAM staff members has grown hand-in-hand with the organization’s own efforts to increase diversity among staff across our network.

In 2021, DREAM unveiled our current diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy, with a core focus on developing and growing diverse staff. Since then, this effort has resulted in a 13 percentage point increase in the number of full-time staff members who identify as BIPOC across the network. That includes a 5 percentage point increase for school staff and a 24 percentage point increase for school leaders—today, 88% of school leaders at DREAM identify as BIPOC. Newly created initiatives like the DREAM Teaching Fellowship and the Principal in Residence Program further enhance DREAM’s ability to put educators in our schools and classrooms that represent our students and communities.

As DREAM’s Managing Director of High School and Leadership Development, Jared Francis began to encourage his colleagues to take part in the NFBLME fellowship after he joined the 2021 cohort. He and DREAM Charter High School Principal Brandon Taylor, now NFBLME alumni, engage with the organization as mentors and recruiters.

“Part of our leadership development program at DREAM includes identifying emerging leaders of color,” he says. “If they’re the right fit for NFBLME, we encourage them to apply and make sure DREAM supports them. DREAM has continued to invest in this program, and that sends a message to me as a male leader and male educator of color about what our priorities are.”

Nationally, 50% of NFBLME fellows have been promoted since the organization was founded, and 14 have become senior and/or C-Level leaders, including Francis and Fernandez, who were both promoted to their respective roles in the last two years.

Transformative Outcomes
DREAM’s support of the NFBLME fellowship aligns with our belief that all students can achieve when provided the resources needed to fulfill their vision of success. It’s one of many tools used to ensure DREAM students get a world-class education, surrounded by adults who value and care for them.

NFBLME’s mentorship, education, and development helps build educators equipped to implement DREAM’s Grow the Whole Child model, a system that provides rigorous academics, social-emotional learning, family and community engagement, and physical and mental health and wellness for all students. And it’s because of this model that DREAM students were able to achieve the network’s highest-ever ELA and Math proficiency rates on the 2022-23 New York State Test, while the DREAM Charter High School Class of 2023 received a 100% acceptance rate to college and career pathways, and garnered more than $2 million in funding for their postsecondary pursuits.

DCHS also earned a spot on the 2023 AP School Honor Roll and was granted the 2023 AP Access Award, both from the College Board, in recognition of the school’s pursuit of equitable education for all students and for driving college readiness.

“As an NFBLME fellow, developing clear systems for academic leadership across the school and receiving coaching around how to build targets and monitor KPIs, OKRs, etc. has been instrumental in ensuring consistency and predictability for young people, which has had really tangible student outcomes,” says Brandon Taylor.

A Brotherhood of Support
Outside of DREAM’s schools and classrooms, DREAM’s cohort of NFBLME fellows have found that representation in their professional spaces has not only created better outcomes for DREAM’s students. It’s also allowed them to develop as leaders and people among a supportive community with shared values and experiences.

“I’ve had challenges of being my authentic self at work, and I think I’ve started to lean into it more because I’ve seen these people look and dress and talk like me in prominent roles,” says Gonzalez. “You have this idea of what a leader looks like, and seeing a room of leaders that look like that, it helps me be comfortable with who I am, and makes me believe I look and act like a leader.”

For Ja’Keel Daniels, who recently served as interim principal at DREAM Mott Haven Elementary School and will move into his new role as DREAM Charter High School Principal this coming fall, the fellowship has been instrumental in supporting his professional transition.

“These are people who have done it at every level sharing systems and technical pieces with me, and there’s always someone who can connect me to someone else who can share their insights,” he says. “When you are around other Black and Latino educators, you don’t feel like a small fish in a big pond. You feel that you have camaraderie, and people who share the same experiences. If I didn’t have the fellowship, this work would be a lot harder.”

Part of the fellowship’s support also includes wellness check-ins and 13 months of free therapy to ensure that fellows are prepared not only for the academic side of teaching, but also the impact the work can have on an educator’s mental and emotional health.

“Having that access is amazing,” says Porter. “As Black and Latino male educators, we deal with a lot outside and inside the school building. In the positions that we’re in, we’re looked at as people who are tough and strong, and able to deal with things. I don’t take lightly the fact that this program offers me free therapy. It’s the top thing that I appreciate about being a fellow.”

Real Men Teach
United in a special bond as NFBLME fellows, DREAM’s cohort also bands together under the mantra “Real Men Teach,” a phrase they proudly display on sweatshirts and in photos.

They also work to ensure the phrase is not just a set of empty words. Each fellow sees himself as paving a way for the next set of fellows, for their DREAM staff, and for the students whose futures are entrusted to them.

“I’ve hired three students I used to counsel, and they are all young men of color,” says Gonzalez. “I feel like there’s a tremendous amount I owe to them. I have to win in this to pave the way.”

<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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