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Dylan Chidick, a formerly homeless high school student in New Jersey, can't remove the smile from his face after he was recently accepted to 17 of the 18 colleges to which he applied.
Since immigrating from Trinidad at the age of 7, Chidick and his family have faced prejudice, homelessness and financial struggles. Chidick, a senior at Henry Snyder High School in Jersey City, would be the first person in his family to attend college.
“I believe that education is the key to basically the world. Nobody could take away the knowledge that you have,” Chidick told NBC News. “They could take away your job or your money, but knowledge that you have in your brain, nobody could ever take that away.”
Aside from his recent successes, Chidick has been class president for the past three years and serves as vice president of his school’s National Honor Society. He is also a Jersey City Youth Ambassador.
Much of Chidick’s determination comes from seeing his single mother, Khadine Philip, turn to the nonprofit organization Women Rising for help, which helps women and their families build self-sufficient lives.
Witnessing this vulnerability in his “very independent” family struck a chord in the teenager.
“They don't like to accept help," he said. "So, seeing them go through that experience made me change my ways and made me more determined to have my dreams and accept help from others to basically plan my future out correctly.”
The organization helped them secure permanent housing, giving Chidick and his siblings a safe place to live and focus on their studies.
Chidick’s college acceptances include Albright College, Swindon College and New Jersey City University. He is still waiting to hear back from his top choice, the College of New Jersey. He plans to study political science and later become a lawyer. Eventually, Chidick hopes to help support his family and assist his mother in achieving her dream of opening a Caribbean restaurant.
“I'm used to being a role model already because I have two younger brothers. I've always known I have someone looking up to me, but now there's kids that I never met before saying you’re an inspiration,” Chidick said. “It makes me feel great inside and it warms my heart to know there are other people out there having the same situation as me and using my story as an example to push through it.”