2013-06-12
Collages
Picassa

Meet Our Students

20130327_011308 (1)Meet Tasneema Sultana – a Manhattan International High School 2013 graduate. In a few weeks, Tasneema will take her first college level course at the New York City College of Technology. What might seem like a logical academic progression for someone fresh out of high school, more...

Tasneema’s path to secondary education at a renowned NYC college began thousands of miles from NYC in a the city called Moulvi Bazaz, a city district of Sylhet Division in north-eastern Bangladesh. You might not recognize the name but chances are you’ve drank tea from Sylhet – a lush and hilly region known for its many tea plantations. In 2009, Tasneema and her family left Bangladesh for the United States to start a new life; she was 15 years old. She admits her first two years in NYC was very challenging on many fronts. Language, though, proved the most frustrating. After researching high schools for their daughter, Tasneema’s parents opted for Marta Valle Secondary High School in NYC’s Lower East Side. To their surprise, the school’s administration decided not to invite Tasneema to enroll at the school because of her limited English skills. The next step led them to a meeting with a representative from the Board of Education who suggested they visit Manhattan International High School on the Upper East Side – a school specifically designed to prepare recently arrived English language learners for college and career success. Soon enough, Tasneema began taking her first classes, learning English and other core academic content with students from around the world, and creating a network of friends. She says the fact that her peers were all English language learners made the process of learning English easier and faster. In addition, the school environment is based on a shared sense of responsibility and achievement – returning students helping newer students, teachers taking time after class or during their lunch break to help struggling students, and so forth. Looking back, Tasneema says she learned a lot both from her teachers and her fellow classmates – she felt cared for and appreciated across the board – “it was like a family to me “she says. Working hard, staying focused and having the right kind of support led her to win a slew of school awards; for example, best achievement in math (2013), most improvement in English (2013), Most dedicated in math (2010), best in social study (2010), most improvement in science (2010), and citizenship award in (2011), to name a few. While her career goal is to become a nurse, she’s already been working part time since 2011 – a novel experience at first, she says, because the idea of making her own money and being somewhat financially independent was totally new to her and her family. She visited Bangladesh last year and still misses it but her life is here now and she has just begun to reach her full potential. Living in New York City has taught her that while life can be hard by times, nothing is impossible and the future full of promises.
 
954718_559000267484211_1038389796_nMeet Issaka Farid Mamah – a junior at International Community High School. Issaka left his home country of Togo, in West Africa, back in 2011. When he was still a small child, Issaka’s father and mother left for the US to start a new life, placing him in the hands of his caring aunt. It wasn’t until 12 years later more...
 that Issaka was reunited with his entire family, in NYC on November 18, 2011. While growing up in Togo, Issaka tried his best to learn English but the lack of resources and support made practicing and learning English very difficult. While very excited to start a new life in the United States, Issaka told me he worried about the extreme temperatures of the Northeast. Well, I can’t blame him there. Once in NYC, he enrolled at the International Community High School (ICHS) with the idea of transferring to a traditional high school the next year. But that soon changed. With each passing month, he told me that ICHS came to represent much more than a school to him, it was a place where he belonged on so many levels; it became his community. In addition to English, Issaka also speaks fluent French and German, and four languages from his native country; Ewe, Kabiye, Kutukuli and Capviere. Impressive, right? Like many International High School students, Issaka was encouraged by his teachers to use his skills to help fellow students in need of extra help, like in his German class. His strong focus will hopefully lead him to the doors of Columbia University where he wants to pursue his passion for numbers – mathematics. And plans to study either accounting or get the credits he needs to continue on to flight school. In the meantime, he keeps himself very busy, currently interning with the New York French American Charter School, where he works as an assistant teacher. He’s doing such a great job there that the school offered him an internship at their main office. He’s also involved in after school programs and enjoys playing soccer when he has a little free time. What’s next? He plans to go to Togo next year to visit but he says his future is here in NYC – a city he loves for many reasons, one of which being its multiculturalism. When I asked what inspires him as he looks onto the future, he said Math inspires him a lot because it provides him with a way for solving things as there generally is a clear path to a solution to most math problem. And while life isn’t always simple, it certainly helps to have a system for dealing with things. He thinks of the future as an opportunity to make the present better, and that starts with helping others, with being a good friend and an active member of his community. As a practicing Muslim, Issaka goes to Arabic school and is always open to discussing what he learns with other interested in learning more about his religion and its traditions. I really enjoyed interviewing Issaka because he’s someone who inspires confidence and optimism – two great qualities to build a strong future.

 

3904_559469524103952_1813488563_nMeet Mayra Martinez-Chan – a Junior at Pan American International High School Monroe, one of two International High Schools that work exclusively with Spanish speaking recent immigrants. Mayra left her hometown of Tuluá, located in the beautiful Valle del Cauca of Colombia, in August, 2011.more...

 New York City was a big change for her – lots of different cultures, languages, styles, foods, plus the bright lights of Times Square and the long subway rides. Within a few weeks of her arrival, Mayra enrolled at PAIHS as a sophomore and learned early how to navigate the school and make friends. While her English was rudimentary at the time, it quickly improved because, she says, teachers instruct academic content and English at the same time and really make sure students learn both. They also encourage and celebrate hard work by putting up Super Scholars competitions for all students. But winning is only part of it. It’s about learning to achieve. Last year, Mayra participated in a three week long film workshop during which she learned the basics of filmmaking, realizing a lifelong dream of hers. But that was only the beginning. Not long ago, her school’s Assistant Principal, Mr. Badia, approached her with the idea of submitting an application for the Tribeca Film Institute Fellows program, which by the way only accepts 20 NYC students a year! After a grueling submission process, and much waiting, Mayra got an answer back – she got in! This year-round program helps talented young filmmakers write, pitch, produce and film an independent documentary film about their own life journey. This very intense program does have some great perks though – like meeting Robert De Niro in person and getting advice from him about filmmaking, for example. Wow! Of course, Mayra has other passions and her future is still wide open. She’d like to go to college to become a pediatrician because, she says, caring and helping others are what her family, her mother and aunt inspire her to be. And she also loves children, which helps. But filmmaking is also a strong part of who she is and working with editing software, cameras, etc. will only bring her closer to realizing that dream. 

 

Edgar Morales - ICHS

Meet Edgar Morales, a senior at Pan American International High School (PAIHS) Monroe. Edgar left his hometown of Tehuacán in the region Puebla in Mexico, 3 years ago. According to many archeologist, the Valley of Tehuacán is the first place corn was ever cultivated by humankind.more...

But let’s come back to 2013 – Edgar came to New York City expecting to sea of skyscrapers all around. The Bronx however did not exactly deliver on that front – in the movies, he says, everything about NYC seems so big, tall buildings everywhere – it’s bigger than life. Going big though is definitely how Edgar goes about living his life – this year, he won not one but two scholarships. He was selected to participate in the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute held each year in Albany, NY where, for three days, he and other students from across New York State debate and discuss legislative bills that affect their communities. It was during the student delegate recognition dinner, held at the Institute grounds, that twenty students, including Edgar, were presented with an Angelo Del Toro Scholarship – a scholarship program sponsored by The New York State Assembly – Senate Puerto-Rican/ Hispanic Task Force and Somos El Futuro Inc. that supports promising young leaders. And just this last May, Edgar received a prestigious CUNY-IME Becas Scholarship to attend CUNY Institute of Mexican Studies at Lehman College. Though he hasn’t pinned down a study major yet, Edgar told me that computer programming is something he wants to learn more about. Edgar’s path is certainly impressive but he made it clear to me that the support he received from his teachers at PAIHS Monroe was a huge factor in enabling him to reach his full potential academically and socially both in school and outside the school walls. He was, for example, encouraged to practice one of his many skills – drawing – when he first began learning English in the classroom of his new school – he would draw to express and share ideas; a great way he says for keeping involved in class discussions. He also brought his desire to part of the conversation to the community organized group Raza Youth Collective, which organizes workshops and events around cultural and political issues that affect the Latino community, such as public demonstrations, etc. The multiculturalism of New York City is something that inspires him and learning French and Portuguese are next on his list of things to do. One thing on my own list to will be to keep in touch with you Edgar – your future is bright ! 

 

Picture - I COMMUNITY HSMeet Mousumi Akhter – a sophomore from International Community High School (ICHS), one of six International High Schools located in the Bronx. The others are located in Manhattan (2 schools), Queens (3 schools), Brooklyn (3 schools), California’s Bay Area (2 schools) and more...

Alexandria, VA (1 school). Mousumi moved to the US with her parents and younger brother two years ago and settled in the Bronx. Originally from the city of Comilla, in Eastern Bangladesh – a city famous for the great size and number of water-storage tanks, some of which were built in the 15th century and can measure up to 1 mile in circumference. Like most students I interviewed for my student profiles series, Mousumi knew very little English when she first landed in NYC. Back home, she says people told stories about the New York City being an unsafe and intimidating city, and while she was a bit worried in the beginning, she soon realized those stories were for the most part untrue. But it doesn’t mean it was easy either. When she first enrolled at ICHS, she had difficulties adapting to the new school environment and her lack of English only added to the feeling of isolation. But, she says, it didn’t go unnoticed for very long. Both her teachers and the other Bengali students at the school made sure she felt included and encouraged her to speak English as much as possible. That was a turning point for her, she says. The school is entirely focused on making sure each student has the support he or she needs to develop his/her full potential. And with her English skills improving, so did her grades. Today, she excels in all of her classes. When I asked what the main difference was between her school experience back home and at ICHS, she says the focus back home was mostly on memorization while here it’s more on understanding a concept, a subject – something I was told is called deeper learning. What about her future plans? Mousumi says she loves kids and wants to study medicine in college to become a pediatrician. Sadly, Mousumi’s younger sister died back in Bangladesh because she did not receive adequate medical attention when she needed it the most. This very difficult experience is at the core of Mousumi’s desire to become a doctor and go places their she will be needed the most – Africa, Bangladesh, and other countries that often lack the resources to provide the right kind of medical support to people, and especially children in need. In the meantime, she’s been very involved both in school and after school – this year she’s participating in after school science projects and did the same last year with after school math activities. Last summer, Mousumi also attended English and History classes at Hostos Community College, in the Bronx. This was quite challenging for her because US History is a difficult subject since she never studied it prior to moving to the US. Next on her list – learning Spanish and Arabic because, she says, many of her friends are from Spanish or Arabic speaking countries, but also because they inspire her! A few years into her new life, she says she really loves living in New York City because there is a bit of every part of the world here, including a large and active Bengali community, though naturally she also misses her native country. Two more years of high school and she will be ready to open another important chapter of her life. I can’t wait to hear where you will end up putting your skills and passion to work. 

 

IMG_3949-1Meet Dolma Lhamo – a senior at International High School at LaGuardia Community College (IHS@LGCC). Dolma grew up in a pastoral community in the high Kham plateau region, one of the 3 main traditional regions of Tibet that is more than twice the size of California. Because it is quite remote, access more...

to a quality education is very challenging, she says, and most people do not have access to a formal education. For these reasons, Dolma and her brother left Kham in 2006, still young teenagers, to join their father in NYC. She soon enrolled at a local middle school but struggled both academically and socially because she knew so little English. Still, it didn’t stop her from going to the school library to rent books in English. Her first year at IHS@LGCC was challenging too at first – having to settle yet again into a new environment. But, by her sophomore year, Dolma says the school became a second home for her – she credits the school principal, her teachers and students for being so supportive as she worked to excel academically, taking college level courses through the LaGuardia Early College program, and grow into the confident person I interviewed. In a few weeks, Dolma will graduate from IHS@LGCC to pursue her strong academic path on the benches of SUNY Potsdam, where she wants to study environmental biology. She is a determined, inspiring and talented person. And a few weeks ago, these qualities were recognized in a major way. Dolma was just awarded a Gates Millennium Scholarship – a national undergraduate scholarship award presented to 1,000 outstanding and high-achieving minority students each year. She told me she had to submit eight essays and then wait a long time before getting the great news. During her sophomore and junior year, Dolma was an active member of her school’s Student Government and currently participates in the Himalayan Club – which she co-founded – where she performs traditional Tibetan dance in indoor and outdoor events. She also represented the International High Schools at the Middle College National Consortium Student Conference in South Carolina. The list goes on and so will Dolma – from the plateaus of Tibet to the high rises of NYC and beyond. I will make sure to keep an eye out for you Dolma, I have a feeling we will be seeing more of you in the future. 

 

Solange Amedetowou – a junior at ELLIS Prep AcademyMeet Solange Amedetowou – a junior at ELLIS Prep Academy. She is originally from Togo, a West Africa country with a population of approximately 6.7 million bordered by Ghana to the west, Benin to the east and Burkina Faso to the north. The capital city is Lomé, located on the beautiful Gulf of Guinea.more...

Solange left Togo 3 years ago to join her father, step mother and three younger brothers, all of whom had moved to the US 10 years before she did. Thought she speaks French and Ewe, a Niger–Congo language spoken by three million people in southeastern Ghana and southern Togo, fluently, communicating wasn’t always easy for her because she is naturally shy. When she first enrolled at ELLIS, she barely talked to other students, including students from other West African countries. I asked what had changed for her since first enrolled at ELLIS. She said each classroom is organized to encourage you to communicate with others, in groups or on projects. Also, her teachers were very supportive and she felt early on that she could talk openly about her worries and concerns. Over time, her school community became another family to her – something I can relate to. I think that when you are young and starting a new life in a new country, it is important to grow new roots fast and her teachers helped her do just that. Today, her English is strong but Solange has big dreams and wants her English skills to be even stronger. She is currently taking ESL College Now classes every Tuesday and Thursday at Hostos Community College in Manhattan and also heads to Columbia University every Saturday to take Chemistry and Physics classes. Did I say she was determined? College wise, Solange plans to study pre-med and ultimately become a gynecologist. Syracuse University, which she visited recently, could be the first step in that direction. In the meantime, Solange participates in the Fairness Community group at ELLIS, where she practices the art of mediation when addressing issues relating to student/teacher relations. Of course, what a better place to combine her passion for science and the opportunity to communicate it than at her school’s Science Reading group, which meets every Tuesday. During these meetings, members discuss new scientific discoveries and innovations, medical cures, and so forth. I think that’s awesome! When I asked what she thinks about when she has a little free time, she said she dreams about visiting her mother and little sister back in Togo. That day will be a very special day, a day of celebration, and much deserved ! 

 

Alberto - ELLIS

Meet Leonel Alberto Severino – a junior in ELLIS Prep Academy in the Bronx, which affiliated with Internationals Network for Public School back in 2008. Alberto, like the other International High School students I interviewed for my Student Profile Series, is grateful to be living and studying in the US, and ismore...

 determined to make the best of this opportunity. Two years ago, never having spoken a word of English, Alberto left his native Dominican Republic with his brother for the Bronx where they both currently resides with their father. Adjusting to a new culture and language was hard for him. Alberto told he felt ashamed whenever he had to speak English. But enrolling at ELLIS Prep Academy proved to be the right fit for him and he is making the best of his time here. What he really likes about his school is that everyone cares about each other; it’s an open environment where he has authentic conversations with his teachers, who in turn give him the support he needs to feel confident about his ability to speak English and excel in class. He even discovered a passion for the science behind construction building and hopes to study Civil Engineering or Architecture in college. And when he does, he will be the first member of his family to attend college. For him, studying at ELLIS has been about finding what he’s good at and getting the support he needs to know he can pursue it once he graduates from high school. He is currently doing an internship with an organization known as “Sistas and Brothas United” (SBU), a non profit organization in Northwest Bronx that helps students develop creative ways to address problems that affect their community. As a result, Alberto participated in many public speak outs and marches against educational inequality. Being involved in his school community and the community at large is something Alberto is proud of and he should be. What you learn in one, you can bring to the other, and vice versa – right? He loves having friends from many different countries, which might also explain why he wants to learn Portuguese and French. He hopes to meet students for many more countries wherever he decides to go to college, and that might be at Syracuse University – he recently was invited to visit the school. The future is an open door for Alberto, one he will open and jump into with determination, confidence and appreciation. 

 

Picture 077Meet Roya Sahibzada, a senior at The Flushing International High School. Roya is originally from the 3,500 years old city of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city with a population of about 3.3 M. Kabul stands at 5,876 ft above sea level, which is higher than Mount Marcy – the highest point in New York State 5,343 feet. more...

 Roya came to the United States three and a half years ago with her entire family after having also lived in Pakistan and India on their way here. Her father, an Afghan diplomat, decided to accept a position here in NYC to secure a safer and better education for his son and four daughters. Roya did see much destruction in Kabul before leaving, though she told me things are better there now. She didn’t know much English when she first enrolled at the Flushing High School in Queens. The lack of support for English learners like her made her experience there very challenging and she soon felt completely isolated. A friend of the family suggested that she enroll at The Flushing International High School instead. She soon did and things changed for the best after that. Both Roya and Juana Campos (previous Student Profile) said to me that they wouldn’t be where they are today without the support and encouragement from their teachers, principal and students alike. I feel the same way when I think of my friends, teachers and Principal, Mr. Harriman, at IHS at Lafayette. Today, Roya’s English is fluent and she can be very proud of that. It also helped her during her internship last year, at the United Nations no less, where she provided logistical and administrative support, and even met her home country’s Treasury Minister. Giving back to the community is another important part of her activities and she gives tutoring lessons in Math and other subjects to students who need a little extra help after school. When I asked her what she wanted to do after high school, her face got more serious – her father has been called back to Afghanistan, which means that Roya and her siblings will have to head back too. When I asked how she felt about that she said she would love to stay because her experience here has been so rewarding on so many levels. She really wants to attend an American university to study Political Law and International Relationships because she knows how important it is for countries, communities to get along together. And while she will most probably enroll at the American University of Kabul, she would also love to study in an American college here in the US. But most of all, though, Roya is concerned that she won’t be able to speak English every day like she does here, exchanging and sharing ideas and thoughts in a language she worked so hard to learn and speak. And though she also speaks Dari, Pashtu and knows some Urdu, it’s the practice that makes perfect. I understand that feeling completely. We all work hard every day at the international High Schools to study and learn to speak and write English fluently, thank you Roya for reminding us of that great opportunity. 

 

535941_532040620180176_682508520_nMeet Cheng Peng from International High School at Union Square. He’s kind of a one man show, well almost. You see, David is the only student in the entire school who speaks mandarin. He’s originally from Beijing while the other students in his class who came from China are from the Southern region of the country where people speak more...
Cantonese. I asked him if this made his transition harder and while it was in the beginning, David said that feeling went away very quickly because all of the students in his class learned to communicate by collaborating on class projects, which fostered a sense of mutual support and made learning English easier, more accessible. David came to the US alone about 2 years ago and lives in Queens with his mother. Next year, he will be applying to colleges and dreams of going to Columbia University to study business. I asked him what he would do with a business degree; he says he’d like to start a trade business with friends between China and the US. Studying at Union Square has made him realize how global everything is and how important it is to learn about other cultures. He learned English in Beijing but he says it was too academic and not practical enough – I had the same experience in Pakistan. I asked him how he felt about living in the US after two years and he told the school’s environment helped him become a New Yorker and his recent internship at a law firm was a great learning experience because it forced him to get out of his comfort zone. He’s relied on what he learned here and at his internship to start a book club with a few friends where they encourage each other to discuss and defend their ideas, explore new concepts and socialize. And eat food! Apparently David is quite the foodie and has developed a taste for Thai food since studying at Union Square. Global commerce, global food, a global citizen! It was great talking to you David and good luck with your future projects! 

DSC00023Meet Yangzom Lhamo, a graduating senior at Brooklyn International High School. Yangzom moved to the New York City in 2010 knowing maybe 5 words of English. In a few months, she will enter the hallways of Lawrence University in Wisconsin on a POSSE Scholarship.Yangzom left her native Tibet for India more...

at the young age of nine with her mother and sister where she lived in a Tibetan community for 7 years. There, she attended a Tibetan boarding school known as a “Dharamsala” in Himachal Pradesh region of Northern India where Dalai Lama resides. When I asked her what she thought of NYC when she arrived at JFK she told the first thing she noticed was how blue the sky was. She learned of this school through her neighbors in Queens and enrolled soon after. The first year wasn’t easy for her or her classmates – they had to communicate using body language during the first months then progressively less as their English skills expanded – an experience she feels helped her create strong bonds and unlikely friendships with students for countries and cultures so vastly different from her own. Many of her best friends are from west and southern African countries. It has also taught her to think big, bigger, global. She recently completed an internship with the New York Civil Court and her mentor helped her get a job as an interpreter – how cool is that? She is also an active member of the “Fight against Bullying” program and participated in the recent Peace March against Bullying and Discrimination. In September, she will begin taking her first classes at Lawrence University on a full scholarship from the POSSE Foundation, which selects and prepares student leaders from public high schools for enrollment at top-tier universities nationwide. Yangzom told me she wants to study International Affairs and plans on learning Chinese too because knowing a language in knowing how others think. Great advice. Before leaving her, I asked her if she wanted to say something else and she responded by saying that anyone can overcome challenges and achieve great things; if you work and study hard, the sky is the limit. 
536460_531561220228116_1822151440_nMeet Ana Gonzalez, a junior at International High School at Union Square. Ana left Northern Mexico for New York City 3 years ago. Next year, she will apply to college and universities, including Harvard University, to become a lawyer. When I asked her what she really more...
 liked about her school she told me she really appreciated the sense of belonging to a community where everyone is comfortable supporting each other achieve and succeed – something I also heard in my previous interviews. In her view, IHS at Union Square prepares students very well because everyone is taught to collaborate from day one. There is a sense here that we are all in this together and teachers always know when you’re having a bad day – teachers reach out to students individually and have a personal conversation about what’s troubling them. Her confidence also grew from her experiences debating in class on subjects she is passionate about like Lincoln or Christopher Columbus – and through these debates she also learned what values are important to her. One of these is being an active member of her community – she recently interned at EVC, Education Video Center, and worked with a team on a documentary about pollution, led poisoning and pesticides, interviewing local residents around East and West Harlem, as well as health professionals, to educate others on the challenging living conditions of many New Yorkers. One of her after school activities is learning about graffiti art! Next step for Ana – learning Mandarin, she says. Asian food was very foreign to her when she first moved to the US but 3 years later and sushi is now one of her favorite foods. As we finished the interview, Ana told me that she looks forward to graduating from Union Square because the lessons she learned here will help her wherever she may go, and knowing you are part of a community of peers who are eager to make a difference is very energizing. 

 

563376_521954084522163_1966760709_nJeffrey is a sophomore in the International High School At Lafayette. He is originally from the province known as Guangdong located in Southern China. He came to this country 4 years ago with his mother and currently lives in Brooklyn, NY. According to Jeffrey, education in China is more complicated than in America. He further explains more...

, “If you don’t go to school for one day, then the next day you will have no idea what teacher is talking about.” In his view, International High School At Lafayette is great for ESL students because one can learn English and other courses with more support. Jeffrey’s career goal for the future is working in the field of Engineering and Mathematics. He still misses his friends in China but thinks that his future will be better if he stayed in the United States. 

 

 


Picture 078Meet Juana Campos – a senior at Flushing International High School. Originally from the Dominican Republic, Juana and her family moved to the US three and a half ago to start a new life. When she enrolled at Flushing International High School, she knew but a hand full of words in English. more...
She says her first year at school was frustrating because she couldn’t fully express herself in the classroom. So, she decided to start writing poems in English to expand her vocabulary creatively. Soon enough, her creative writing skills led her to the doors of her school’s Creative Writing Club, where she was heading to read some of her more recent poems after our interview. And her writing skills took her further than she could have ever imagined. Last year, Juana submitted a creative essay to The National Geographic Student Expeditions Scholarship Program, describing the reasons why she wanted to participate and what she would contribute to the program. A few weeks later, a letter came back with a ticket to Australia where, for 3 weeks, Juana and 16 other scholarship winners traveled the country, studying marine biology, including swimming in the Great Barrier Reef, with sharks – great white sharks, to be precise.While her group was at a safe distance, Juana was told to avoid keeping her arms extended because sharks often mistake human swimmers for seals. This fall, Juana’s next chapter will be written in the classrooms of Ithaca College where she wants to major in US History, a childhood passion of hers. And when I asked her where she would like to teach US History, she said she would love to come back and teach at Flushing International High School! Things have a way of reconnecting don’t they?! Oh, she also wants to learn 12 languages! She’s serious too – so, let me know when you’re ready to learn Urdu! 

 

Sabas oakland IHSMeet Sabas Vargas – a senior at Oakland International High. Sabas left his home country of El Salvador 3 years ago to join his older sister in Oakland who already lived in CA. What struck me the most about Sabas when I interviewed him was his energy, his sense of community and his openness more...

to talk about what’s important to him, like the environment and going to college. Speaking of which, a few weeks ago, Sabas received two letters; one from the University of California, Santa Cruz and other from the University of California Berkeley.  He was accepted into both, making him the first member of his family to head to college. For Sabas, though, none of this would be possible without the support of his teachers, school principal and counselors over the years. The fact that the school faculty treated him like an adult and supported him every step of the way to reach his goal helped him realize that with hard work and determination, he could achieve great things. Being part of the community is another important lesson he learned at Oakland, and he took this lesson beyond the school walls too. Last year, Sabas worked on a video project called “Occupying the Future” for KDOL-TV, in collaboration with the Media Enterprise Alliance, about the Occupy Movement in downtown Oakland. His team even won an award for doing such a good job covering the street protests and providing their own take on the movement and its impact on the community. He also volunteers for Green Team – a community service organization that creates green open spaces around the city of Oakland. And when the end of the day approaches, Sabas jumps on his skateboard and rides down the path to what I know will be a great future. 

 

KarenC Oakland

Meet Karen Carranza – She is a senior at Oakland International High School, one of two International High Schools in California’s Bay Area. I interviewed her on Skype. Karen is originally from El Salvador; a country of approximately 6 millions people located in Central Americamore...

and bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between Guatemala and Honduras. I was surprised to learn that the overall forest cover in El Salvador has actually expanded by nearly 20% over the last decade. Karen came to the US with her family about 3 years ago and spoke only Spanish. The first few months at Oakland IHS were quite difficult, she admits, leaving her discouraged because she was always a top student in El Salvador but was unable to make the same grades at her new school. But that didn’t last long. With each class project, student collaboration and group presentation, her English skills and overall grades improved, and so did her self confidence. Barely 3 years later, she’s taking an honors class in English literature and tutors a 3rd grade student with her reading and writing skills. Working closely with a child has been one of the most rewarding experiences for Karen; seeing a child learn and develop skills is a complex process and one she now plans to study further in college. Her ultimate goal is to become a pediatrician and she want to major in psychology before moving on to medical school. Karen struck me as an introspecting person who uses what she learns about herself to help other reach their full potential – that’s a great goal Karen ! 

 

SandraMeet Sandra Staniszewska. Originally from the historical city of Warsaw, Poland, Sandra graduated from the International High School at Lafayette in June 2012, and is currently completing her second semester at Borough of Manhattan Community College where she is majoring in Multimedia & Color Design more...

. When I asked her what she remembers the most from her 4 years at Lafayette, she says that the friendships she made at school, she unconditional support from students  and teachers alike, and the great advice she received from her teachers she is today is the strong support she received from friends she made at school and her teachers were very important factors in making her who she is today. She also realized that learned a lot of “very good and smart ways to become successful in life”. She plans on transferring to Queens College where she will continue to study computer programming. Down the line though, she has her sights on becoming a graphic designer. It’s very hard to convey how amazing Sandra is in a short paragraph but you will get an chance to see what I mean in the documentary I learn America, A Feature Length Documentary Directed and Produced by Jean-Michel Dissard and Gitte Peng, which premiere at the 2013 AFI Docs Film Festival. Here’s a link to the trailer! http://vimeo.com/58731601 

 

Picture 015Meet Ndeye Kane, a senior at Manhattan International High School. She is originally from Senegal, a country in West Africa with a population of approximately 14 million. French is the national language but the country is home to many different ethnic groups, each with their ownmore...

 native language. Ndeye came to the US with her family nearly 5 years ago when she was 12 years old. Though she has not returned to Senegal since she moved to NYC, she wants to secure funding to open a clinic in Senegal because, she says, most hospitals and doctors in the country require payment before they even check patients for illnesses, leaving many Senegalese in rural areas with no access to medicines. Ndeye told me she has a sister who currently works in a clinic in Senegal, so combining her efforts to find funding in the US with her sister work on the ground would be great. She said it took her a while to figure out how to best reach this goal, should she study Business and Medicine in college? So, she decided to attend a business program at Bryant University in Rhode Island and later participated in a program held at Cornell University for prospective medical students to help her chose. Hearing experienced doctors discuss the ins and outs of practicing medicine with young students like her really inspired her and she now plans to study per-medicine at either Syracuse University or New York University (NYU), both of which have accepted her. Because she wants to become a doctor, what she will learn in college will no doubt help her a lot in her efforts to bring change to the health care system in Senegal. I was really impressed by how confident and focused Ndeye is – I know she will reach her goals and be an inspiration to others like her. 

 

Picture 016Meet Amelda Pllumaj – She is originally from a rural town in Albania, a country of 3 millions people located in Eastern Europe between Montenegro and Greece. Seven years ago, Amelda and her whole family made a 4,500 miles trip to start a new life in the Bronx. When I asked whymore...

her parents decided to move here she said they did it because they wanted her and her siblings to access a better education, one that would prepare them to succeed in a global society. That process began when she took her first classes in English at Manhattan International High School. She knew very basic English when she first walked down the halls of her new school but with each class, with each new friendship, she soon began to excel academically. But learning to be successful also meant being involved in the community and Amelda is a very active member of her school community, participating in the school’s Student Government and Year Book Committee, helping to raising funds for school-wide activities, including social events, community projects and helping other students voice their ideas, interests and concerns with teachers. She also volunteers at her school and at Internationals Network’s Annual Professional Development Conference. Oh and she’s also quite tall, which would explain why she was also member of the school’s volleyball team. She plans to study Business and Finance in college and is still waiting to hear back from a few colleges in the NYC area. Armed with a finance and business degree, a multicultural background and a natural desire to be part of a global society – the sky is truly full of opportunities for her. 

 

Picture 014Meet Anita Sharma, a senior at Manhattan International High School. She came to the USA 4 years but she is originally from Bhutan. She considers herself more Indian however because she spent most of her life in a refugee camp in Northern India. Her family’s decision to leave Indiamore...

 and move to the US was motivated by her father’s desire to provide his kids with a better education and future. She first enrolled at the Bryant High School but transferred one month later to Manhattan International High School because her classes at Bryant were too crowed and she felt like she was falling behind in her classes due to her lack of english. From day one as a freshman at Manhattan IHS, Anita worked hard to learn English and made quick progress in her classes. The first few months were quite difficult but she stayed focussed, and it paid off. She recently learned she was accepted at Syracuse University and the University of Buffalo, both in Upstate NY. When I asked her about her school, she said the school was the perfect fit for her and she would encourage any immigrant student to enroll at the school. About her after school activities, Anita is a member of The International Rescue Committee and is inspired by the people who volunteer there to impact social changes in a positive and real way. She also created a short film called “Krishna’s Voyage” for Reel Lives Reel, a non profit organization that provide undeserved students with a voice through media platforms. Her film is about her path to self identity. And this won’t be her last – she plans to study filming and International studies in college. The fact that she also speaks Hindi, Nepali, Bengali, and English won’t hurt either. In addition, she is an amazing Bollywood dancer and still performs at events like Culture Day at her school. It was a real pleasure meeting you Anita. Have a great time in college. 

 

7587_537565246294380_330702588_nMeet Mahmuda Tabassum, a senior at Manhattan International High School! She is originally from Dhaka, the capital and largest city of Bangladesh. She moved to the US back in January 2008 with her parents, knowing three words of English – yes, no and thank you – something a lot more...

 of us can relate to. Unfortunately for her, her father and mother had to go back to Bangladesh a few months later, leaving her with a family member for the rest of the year – an experience she remembers as being very difficult and challenging. Today, Mahmuda is ready to reach another milestone – this fall, she will take a seat in a classroom of John Jay College of Criminal Justice where she will be studying criminal justice and political science for the next four years. One of her career goals is to become a Crime Detective right here in NYC. How cool is that! When I asked her why, she said she loved watching detective shows on TV and was hooked from there on. When I asked her about what defines her school, she said the sense of community in which everyone does his or her bit to help and support others. It starts with her teachers who go the extra distance to help struggling students during their lunch time, for example. She also explained how senior students help new students accommodate to a new culture and school environment by giving advice and reaching out to them as soon as they enter school. In the classroom, students from all levels of English collaborate on class projects, further helping the school act and feel connected. Something I can relate to. She is a member of the Student Government, which is always very busy providing support and guidance to students, organizing events and raising funds for school visits. One day, Mahmuda wants to travel around the country to connect with people, visit historical sites, and in the process learn more about the many layers that make this country. She credits her time at Manhattan International High School as very important in helping her open the doors the bigger dreams and a better life. 

 

DSC00020 Meet Tenzin Chotsok, a senior at Brooklyn International High School and a 2013 New York Times Scholarship semi finalist. Tenzin’s parents are from Tibet but she was born in South India where she lived with her mother and her two brothers in a Tibetan settlement until 2009.more...

 That year, she and her two brothers boarded a plan for NYC to meet their father who had moved to the US years a few years earlier. Tenzin‘s mother had the opportunity to visit her parents in Tibet and decided to stay in India to prepare for her trip. Due to unforeseen difficulties,Tenzin hasn’t seen her mother since she visited her parents in Tibet 4 years ago, though Tenzin knows her mother is well and they communicate with each other as much as possible. Later this year, Tenzin will graduate from Brooklyn International High School and while she is still waiting to hear back from some colleges, she believes the combination of strong teacher support, small class structures, and a tight school community were instrumental in helping her adapt and succeed in school, and ultimately enter college. “I’m proud that I came to this school.” In addition to excelling academically, Tenzin loves to explore new things, like taking dancing class at BAM or acting as class representative for the school’s Student Government, for which she and others successfully raised funds to organize school events such as Valentine parties, etc. One of her key accomplishments was being selected as a semifinalist for the prestigious New York Times Scholarship program. Only 5 students are chosen out of 400 entries and while Tenzin was not one of the 5 finalist, she knows she can achieve great things. Tenzin wants to follow in the footsteps of a close relative and become a nurse practitioner or physician in a NYC hospital because, she says, they are noble professions. I couldn’t agree more. She hasn’t decided which college she will go to yet but I’m sure they sure they will be very happy o have her as a student. It was a real pleasure talking to you, Tenzin, and I look forward to hearing more about you in the near future ! 

 

UntitledMeet Souleymane Diallo. He is from Conakry, Guinea and speaks Fulani, French and English, though he didn’t speak any English when he moved to this country almost 4 years. While he considers himself very lucky to be living in Brooklyn with his family, he had to more...

 wait three years before his mother could join him in the US. Souleymane is completing his senior year at the International High School at Prospect Heights and has been involved with a number of after school programs like the National Honor Society through which he helps organizing school events and was recently helping out at a soup kitchen on Coney Island Avenue. He tutors math students when they need help and participates in the African club. He explained to me that he loves to help others because in the beginning he needed a lot of help and he doesn’t want any other person to experience what he went through. He believes that he will be the first one to go to college in his family and, as you can imagine, his family is very proud of him. He wants to go to Baruch College, which is his favorite college. He has researched what careers he would like to pursue and has a goal of becoming an Investment Banker because he thinks he can have a bigger impact on society that way. According to Souleymane, IHSPH has helped him a lot – from learning English to helping him get into college and defining a career path to a bright future. He misses the beautiful nature of his home country but loves living in NYC. It was a pleasure meeting you Souleymane. 

 

549805_526015947449310_711084772_nMeet Chemi Chemi – a senior at International High School at Prospect Heights. She is originally from Tibet and was raised in Nepal where she stayed 5 years. She didn’t speak any English when she moved to the US in 2007 but later this year she will start taking her first more...

 class at Hampshire College where she was accepted on an early decision. She told me that her school and teaches were really instrumental in supporting her reach her goal of going to college, something Souleymane said too. Chemi will be studying English literature and Humanities. She is very active both inside and outside the school. She recently participated in the Opportunity Network program where she helped other students with their college applications, internships, etc. Last year, she also interned at the Office of Special Narcotics where she learned about Criminal Law. Later, she took a journalism course and soon discovered she wanted to write more. This coincides with another important point – Chemi told me that coming to America helped her discover her own voice and the power of having your own voice, something she will explore more in college I’m sure. And winning a prestigious Millennium Gates Scholarship will no doubt help her reach that goal. As a bold and inspiring individual, she wants her voice to be a force for good and I look forward to hearing more about her in the future! I wish you the best of luck with your future projects. 

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