Founder & The ADS Story

Melissa Melkonian

Melissa MelkonianThe American DreamSchool’s founder, Melissa Melkonian, had a long-held vision to start a school for English language learners and immigrant students. Melissa’s parents came to the United States as undocumented immigrants from Mexico. They worked very hard for little pay, a situation familiar to many undocumented workers and their families.

Principal Melkonian and two of her scholars on a field trip to The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.Bec
ause Melissa's family only spoke Spanish, she was quickly classified as an ESL student. It wasn't until the fifth grade that she actually started receiving ESL services and began to learn to speak English. She was immersed in English classes and had to quickly learn a language that was extremely difficult for her. No support was provided; there was no "transitional" or “dual language” program where she could still use her native language, the language she knew how to speak, read, and write.

Despite these challenges, Melissa ultimately learned English, graduated high school, went on to college, became a teacher and later a school leader, and started a family. Melissa has fulfilled the hopes of her parents, who came to the United States so their children would be able to live the American Dream.

Melissa travelingThe idea for The American Dream School came from this personal experience, coupled with Melissa’s reaction to reading an article in the New York Times, “In New York, Mexicans Lag in Education.” The article reports that Mexican and Mexican-American students have a 41% dropout rate in New York City – the highest rate of any ethnic group in the City.

Many immigrant groups struggle to achieve academic success. They are not provided with the foundation to achieve the American dream. Melissa believes that The American Dream School can help students achieve and succeed in two languages through a dual language model and balanced educational practices.


American Dream School