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By Harold Goldberg

Last week, I traveled up to the DreamYard Prep School in the Bronx. Once at the building at 172nd Street, I passed through a metal detector and was escorted up to the school’s top floor and into a comfortable library. The room was so inviting that I thought of Andrew Carnegie’s quote, “A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert.”

At the library, the school’s seniors had gathered to be mentored by various members of the community, including college professors and former DreamYard students. At a long oak table, I talked a bit about videogames. But mainly, I helped a quietly inquisitive student from Ghana work on his personal essay for college.

He asked if he needed to get into a private school like Harvard to make it in life. “I heard I do,” he said.

“Not necessarily. I went to a state school, and I’m doing fine. It’s not so much about the school. It’s about you. It’s about hard work.” I mentioned that just before the Olympics, I interviewed Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant.

His ears perked up.

Durant said to me (and also later to the New York Times) that he is compelled to work harder than the rest. I thought, Really? Even though he’s clearly head and shoulders above almost every NBA player in the talent and skills department? Durant said that when the very talented slack off, he’s ready to step up because he goes the extra mile.

The young man’s essay was a first draft that was written by hand in a spiral bound notebook. It showed promise. I told him about the lead paragraph in journalism, and that he might think about telling the whole story about himself in that first sentence or two. And then, he could expand upon it.

Every senior at the DreamYard public school is the first from his family to head off to college. And I’m told that most of them have had some tough times, which I heard about from the young Ghanaian. But I’ll not go into specifics.

During the afternoon, I met the affable Tim Lord, one of the co-directors of the school. I told him, This is exactly the kind of outreach the New York Videogame Critics Circle wants to be involved with. Lord seemed interested as I mentioned that we could bring some critics and game developers up to the school to talk about getting jobs in the game industry and to talk videogame history. I certainly hope this happens soon. Going up to the DreamYard was an early holiday gift, one that certainly got me in the spirit of the season that’s just about here.

-Harold Goldberg, Founder

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