LOWER MANHATTAN (WABC) --He is the Interim-Acting Principal at the prestigious Stuyvesant High School, which means Eric Contreras is a pioneer. He is the first Latino ever to head one of New York City's eight elite high schools. When he got the job, he says he felt 'overjoyed'.
"I actually wept, and I don't know if that is acceptable to say," said Contreras.
It is perfectly acceptable, considering the 43-year-old's journey to academic achievement, which started soon after his mother brought her 5-year-old son from Guatemala to Queens.
"Libraries, which we went every Saturday, museums - and she found the ones that free admission, parks and beaches," adds Contreras.
One of the goals for the new principal centers on increasing diversity. Stuyvesant has a population of roughly 3,500 students. Less than one percent are black. Latinos account for about two and a half percent of the population. Mr. Contreras hopes to change that.
"It's not just test prep. It's not just mentoring. It's not just day-to-day instructional models, but it's all three. And, developing relationships and collaborations with middle schools is really important," he adds.
"Last night we held our diversity open house where we saw a lot of parents that didn't speak English, and the fact that Principal Contreras is able to communicate with them is invaluable," says Lisa Tepperberg of the Stuyvesant High School Alumni Association.
The former Social Studies teacher, whose daughter was one of only nine Latinas in last year's graduation class, recognizes the school's emphasis on Mathematics and Science, but he wants to see a greater focus on engineering.
"Mr. Contreras brings a wealth of experience to Stuyvesant, not only as an administrator, but as a parent of a graduate here. He really sees both sides," says parent Dina Ingram.