Checking in with Jersey City’s Dylan Chidick
Every once in awhile, we encounter human beings who are so charismatic, inspiring and profound that within minutes, they leave a permanent imprint on our lives. Jersey City boasts one such individual. Dylan Chidick, a young man who has become somewhat of a local celebrity in Jersey City, is one such person. Last Spring Chidick, who overcame homelessness, made local and national news when he was accepted into 18 colleges. EverythingJerseyCity.com wanted to check in on the incredible young man and see how his freshman year was going. True to Dylan Chidick form, his story and accomplishments continue to amaze.
For those of you who may not be familiar with Dylan’s story, it is one of great perseverance and strength. In 2009, Dylan and his family immigrated to the US from Trinidad. After years in the states, Dylan’s mother struggled to make ends meet and the family eventually ended up homeless.
“We were homeless for about four to four and a half months. During this time I didn’t have a place of my own to call my home and it was difficult to study and be a teenager in that situation,” Chidick confesses.
Dylan’s mother was referred to a local non-profit group, Women Rising, during her time at the homeless shelter. Through Women Rising’s Village of Families program, the family was able to move into their own place. The program has also helped them with clothing, furniture, everyday items, gifts for the holidays, etc.
In speaking with Devan Tierney from Women Rising, they couldn’t be more pleased with Dylan and his family’s experience with them. They continue to follow Dylan’s story and love celebrating his triumphs.
“It’s been unbelievable. Everyone knows who they are. We see them in the hallway and get really excited. Being able to be a part of their journey has been phenomenal for everyone at the organization.”
Lemonade from Lemons
What makes Dylan so special is that despite these obstacles, he never became defeated. Instead, he used the experience as an opportunity for growth.
“Going through that situation made my family that much stronger and we became closer because we have this thing that happened to all of us all at once. It’s been really inspiring to my brothers to see me going through that with them and now look at where I am now,” Dylan says proudly.
Dylan wanted to serve as a role model for his brothers and to make sure he was giving back to his mother after all of her sacrifices. He dug his heels in, set his goals high, and worked hard to achieve the success necessary to move himself and his family forward.
“I want to give back to my family (my mom went through a lot to get us here). I want to give back and buy us a house and things like that so that all of her hard work can be paid off in a way. I got into 18 colleges so it exceeded my expectations,” says Chidick.
Ultimately, based on vicinity, pre-law programs, and funds available, Dylan chose The College of New Jersey, TCNJ, located in Ewing, NJ.
“What made me pick TCNJ out of all of those colleges was their scholarship project. I’m in EOF program. For the first two years you don’t pay anything at all. They cover food, room and board, tuition, and books even,” Dylan reports.
The Ties that Bind
In the college selection process, it was crucial for Dylan that he be close to home. While he wanted to gain his independence, the most important thing was to be close enough that he could still visit his mother and brothers on a regular basis.
“I like having my independence and leaving when I want to and coming back when I want to. It gives me a chance to make the right choices. My mom groomed me for 18 years and now it’s up to me to take those lessons and move into the real world.”
Dylan laughs that he really misses his mom’s home cooking as compared to the redundant dorm food, but it’s much deeper than that. Dylan’s brothers both suffer from heart conditions and his mother copes with health issues as well. They are always his first priority.
“It’s always been in the back of my mind when I was there thinking ‘Oh did they run too fast in gym today? Are they going to faint?’ and things like that. I’m always thinking about it even when I’m supposed to be thinking about other stuff,” Dylan admits.
Dylan takes full advantage of his weekends and breaks from school to visit his mom, catch up with his brothers, and enjoy his time back in Jersey City. He appreciates moments when he can put his academic focus to the side in order to prioritize those who are most important to him.
Along with learning to balance his time away from his family, Dylan has been adjusting to life as a college freshman. Initially, the growing pains of the new setting and academic rigor presented a few challenges for Dylan, but he quickly found his rhythm and persevered as he does so well.
“At first I felt a little bit of imposter syndrome in my class. I just felt like everyone was smarter than me. It felt good to stand out when you’re in Jersey City, but now everyone is top of their class. You have to work harder. School always came naturally to me, not that I didn’t put work into it, but now I have to put extra work into it. I have to challenge myself because everyone is challenging themselves and college is a challenging process but it has smoothed out a bit.”
Not wanting to just have school on his resume, and wanting the opportunity to flex his creative muscles, he has sought out other opportunities to grow at TCNJ. He ran for, and was elected to the freshman class council and is also on the student services committee which allows him to have the opportunity to plan campus events for his fellow classmates.
Looking Ahead and Dream Internships
Inspired by a dream to merge Pepsi and Coca Cola into one company, while focusing on each company’s differing wants and needs, Dylan realized he had a passion for business law.
“I like contracts. I like reading contracts and I love to read altogether so that’s just a perfect career path for me.”
In preparation for his future career plans, Dylan is also looking ahead to various internship opportunities to help support his path.
“I would really like for my first internship to shadow a business lawyer so I could see what the job entails: what they actually do and how their day goes. Also it would give me a lot of experience. The dream internship has to be close to home, either in New York or Newark or close to home so I’ll be able to come home every day and basically make it feel like a real job,” Dylan shares.
A Message of Hope
Since last spring Dylan has emerged in our community as a north star. He continues to be an inspiration to those close to him as well as in the larger community. As someone who overcame enormous obstacles to become the first person in his family to attend college, he has become a person we hold in great regard. We asked Dylan what advice he would give to anyone who might also be facing challenges.
“I would first say, if you’re going through a situation like I was, just know that it’s not easy. It’s something that not everyone goes through, but it’s something that you’ll learn a lesson from and if you get through it, and you WILL get through it, it will teach you a big lesson that you will use in the future,” he says.
Dylan also recognizes the importance of finding people you can trust, such as Women Rising.
“Everyone wants to be independent and strong on their own, but making yourself vulnerable will really benefit you. Once you find that person you trust, let them know what you need and how they can help. Also, you have to help yourself as well. Other people can only help you so much. So I would stay just stick it through, you’ll get through it and don’t let the situation define you,” Dylan says emphatically.
The importance of surrounding yourself with a positive and uplifting network of peers is also important to Dylan. In high school he was lucky enough to find the right group of friends who would push each other to succeed and hold each other accountable.
“It’s easy to fall into peer pressure, but knowing that I have people that support me and want the best for me and I also want the best for them, makes it harder for me to fall into that trap,” says Dylan proudly.
Without a doubt, Dylan Chidick is one of the most motivating humans you will ever have the pleasure of knowing. His energy, spirit, and positivity are infectious and his warmth is guaranteed to brighten your day. We have no doubt that this young man is going to make great strides in this world. We, along with everyone else in Jersey City, look forward to watching his continued journey towards personal and community-wide success.