Dream Team students find purpose, positivity at Malcolm X Shabazz High School


    By Heather Kays

    Newark, NJ—Malcolm X Shabazz High School senior Elijah Nazario had a vision to create a documentary displaying the positive work being done by himself and other students who belong to the Dream Team.

    Nazario, 17, described the Dream Team as “A non-profit organization where we make dreams come true.”

    Students on the Dream Team come up with their own project ideas and then work to complete the projects to make positive changes within their schools and within the community.

    The Dream Team completed numerous projects this year — from hosting a luncheon to empower school staff and initiating conversations about empathy to hosting a community clean up. There are 20 members on the Dream Team between Malcolm X Shabazz High School and Belmont Runyon Elementary School combined.

    “The documentary was based on what we do and what we are,” said Nazario. “It’s about working to be a better us that we can be.”

    The other students on the Dream Team worked with Nazario over the course of six months so he could complete his first documentary which follows the group’s work and projects throughout the year.

    “The process was very hard,” Nazario said of making the film. “It took a lot of sweat and anger out of me.”

    Nazario said he was happy with the way the documentary turned out and that he wanted it to portray the message he and his fellow students, “We want that positive change to always happen.”

    The reason for the film was simple, according to Nazario.

    “Not many people in Newark know who we are and what we are about,” said Nazario.

    Rene Lominy, 15, a freshman at Malcolm X Shabazz High School said he joined the Dream Team because there was a “culture change” when he moved to Newark.

    “The Dream Team really just shows me be who you are and be comfortable in your own skin or everything is worse,” said Lominy.

    Lominy said he appears in a scene of the documentary that shows a luncheon the students held to create better relationships with their teachers.

    Students watched the completed documentary last week at a screening at Launch Pad on Broad Street.

    “It was inspiring,” said Lominy, after seeing the completed documentary the students with Nazario as the project lead had worked on for half a year. “I see two totally different mes. I’ve grown so much. Before I just wanted to fit in. I wanted to be popular. I realize the important thing in high school is to get good grades and only surround yourself with positive people.”

    Kayla Matthews, 14, a student at Malcolm X Shabazz High School said the Dream Team helped her break out of her shell.

    “I decided I needed a change,” said Matthews. “I needed to stop being quiet and lonely. I needed to be with friends.”

    Matthews said for her the Dream Team means spreading positivity throughout the community.

    “On the Dream Team we help people that are feeling down,” said Matthews. “We use our projects to change people’s perspectives. We want to see Newark be a better place.”

    Brittany Harley, Dream Director at Malcolm X Shabazz High School which is part of The Future Project, said she was exceedingly proud of the documentary the students created.

    “I am beyond proud of the documentary that was made,” said Harley. “It is an honor and privilege to work with brilliant young minds. Elijah Nazario, Grade 12, was the lead on this project. He created a sense of community on the team through his passion of film. He is one of the reasons the Dream Team believes anything they want to bring to life can happen if they put in the work and remain consistent.”

    Harley described the Dream Team as “a collection of bold and unstoppable young leaders that commit to changing their school—for the better—over the course of the year through student-led projects. These projects, called Future Projects, are big, bold ambitious projects designed to unleash the voice of young people in school and create new possibilities for how schools can become places of possibility for all.”

    The Future Project exists to unleash the possibility in students and the schools that serve them, according to Harley who organized the documentary screening for the students. There are Dream Directors now embedded in over 45 schools across eleven major American cities meaning The Future Project is working with more than 25,000 students nationwide. The concept is for Dream Directors to provide tens of thousands of hours of coaching, workshops, and events, and help empower thousands of young people with big dreams to transform their lives, their schools, and their communities.

    “The young people I had the pleasure of training and developing this school year are clear about the path they want to create on this journey we call life,” said Harley. “The documentary is the result of a vision Elijah Nazario had and enrolled his team members into executing this. The Dream Team is a group of young people who say yes to shifting their school culture for the better. They put in hours this year at meetings to plan their projects and also to take courses to shift their mindsets and skill sets.”

    Nazario said the hard work and months of perfecting his documentary were well worth it.

    “I’m able to change myself and find my calling,” said Nazario, referring to film making. “Thanks to being on the Dream Team I found out who I am.”