NEW YORK -- At M515 Lower East Side Preparatory High School in Manhattan, students come from all walks of life. "Many of our students have immigrated here from other parts of the world," says Kayla Hoglund, assistant principal of LES Prep. "Some students have immigrated here, they live on their own, they are working full-time," she adds.
Thanks to a non-profit called, PENCIL, ABC Localish's Michael Koenigs had the opportunity to experience first-hand the different cultures through the hallways of this NYC high school. "The school was originally started to serve the students of the Lower East side, which is both Chinatown and Alphabet City," says Principal Rene Anaya, who has been part of LES Prep for almost 20 years. "Its mission has not changed. It's just to really give these students a chance to have a better life, try to live the American Dream," he adds.
For teachers like Qiyi Li, LES Prep is more than just a school. "I kind of want to help students to have a smoother change when they migrate to a new country because it's a different education system," says Qiyi Li. At age 20, Li migrated to the United States and was recommended to LES Prep High School. She now teaches at that same school she got her high school diploma. "I am very appreciative that my school was able to help me at that moment so I want to come back here to help my students as well."
LES Prep High School sends more than 80% of its graduates to college and demonstrates how students come together despite language barriers. Students hear over 36 languages while passing through its halls. "My father also attended this school and he learned English in this school," says Ms. Tan, a science, biology, and living environment teacher. "Now his daughter is teaching at the school where he learned English, he is so proud of it," she concluded.