This month, we talk with Janet Gonzalez, a member of Eugene Lang’s original Dreamer class. Many thanks to Janet for sharing her experiences, and for continuing to help Dreamers decades later!
What did you think about “I Have A Dream”-NY when you were in school? I felt it was a positive outlet. The community center we would meet at on 110th street was a "fun" place where I saw my friends and we sat around and talk about what was going on in our lives with school, family, etc. We also had writing and math classes that really helped me a great deal straight through college. To me it was that place we called a "home" outside of home. At least that's what it meant to me.
What high school did you attend and what year did you graduate? Norman Thomas HS, 1987.
What are you doing now? I currently work at Conde Nast. I am the production manager at Glamour magazine. I pretty much built a layout map and make sure our printing plant produces the book at the most efficient rate. It's quite a challenge to achieve but greatly satisfying once I receive that first bound book in my hands!
How would you explain the “I Have A Dream” program to someone who had never heard of it? I would say its an amazing foundation that helps children from lower income communities develop an appreciation for education. It helps students with all academic challenges in junior HS, HS and eventually college. Throughout your school years, the foundation will not only be a place where people care about you and help you in many areas academically or with employment for example, but a place you can go to anytime just to chat with friends. The program also assist with college tuition.
How did being a Dreamer affect you? What I mainly got out of being a Dreamer is a great appreciation to "always give my best." I remember clearly taking a writing class at the youth center with Ms. Julia Smith (our writing teacher at that time) and being pushed hard in such a loving, effective way. She would always say to me, “Is that your best?” It was such an effective way for her to get me to write so much better. Eventually, she helped me get a summer job at Citibank. I'll never forget Julia. She was a great asset to the program and someone I always remember.
What were some of your favorite memories about being a Dreamer? Our outings! We had some pretty fun activities at the youth center but occasionally our coordinator, Johnny Rivera would take us out on outings and those were always a lot of fun. I remember going for lunch and dinner with Mr. Eugene Lang. I always thought it was quite surreal that these inner city kids would be sitting at a restaurant with this multi-millionaire. It was fascinating how we were able to have such interesting conversations with him and really enjoy it. These are fond memories I always cherish.
Are you still involved with "I Have A Dream" - NY? How? This month I will host an event at my work place where twelve high school students will visit. The Dreamers will attend a seminar where my co-workers and I will talk about our work and how the magazine business functions. The students will then be taken on several tours throughout the company. I enjoy giving back to the community whenever possible. I hope to help the Foundation grow and become more successful in the near future!
If you are a Dreamer Alum who would like to share your story for the blog, please contact Thierry Cazeau at firstname.lastname@example.org