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Meet another student from Prospect Heights

This is Manuel Garcia. He's a 19-year-old young man from Honduras.

(Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Manuel is one of the many students enrolled at the International High School at Prospect Heights who has faced adversity, yet remains devoted to getting an education.

He spent his childhood not knowing his mother.

She had come to the United States to work 19 years ago when he was just 7 months old. As Manuel grew older, his father started asking him if he wanted to join his mother in New York. He kept saying no until he was 15 and decided he was ready to go.

When he met his mother for the first time in his young adult life, it was awkward. He greeted her like a stranger.

“She tried to hug me, and I said no,” he recalled.

He had two brothers and a sister in the United States with his mother, only one of whom he’d met before. Most of the other kids his age who came into the country went looking for work, but when Manuel’s mother gave him the choice, he opted for school.

“I love science,” he said. “I want to be an engineer.”

He’s applied to multiple colleges. Manuel said he often finds himself in the midst of money troubles and arguments at home, but school is a sanctuary where he can leave that behind.

His story isn't that unusual. Immigrants and refugees who populate schools like the International High School at Prospect Heights in Brooklyn and Lafayette High School here in Buffalo face many challenges, both emotional and academic. They often come from broken homes or have traumatic pasts and view their education as their only hope for a better future.

Stay tuned for more to come in this series on Tuesday as we take a closer look at Lafayette High School in Buffalo and the challenges it faces.

-- Sandra Tan

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About School Zone

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee joined The Buffalo News in 2007 and currently covers education and suburban schools. She also writes a column for the City & Region section and previously covered government in Erie County and Niagara Falls. Gee graduated from Boston University with degrees in journalism and political science.

@denisejewellgee |

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes joined The Buffalo News in 2013 and primarily covers the Buffalo Public Schools. She has written about education since 2003 at newspapers in Florida and New York. In 2008, she was a nominated finalist for The Pulitzer Prize. Lankes is an Amherst native and graduate of Sacred Heart Academy and Syracuse University. She started her journalism career writing for the News’ NeXt section.

@TiffanyLankes |

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan has been a cityside reporter for The Buffalo News since 2000 and currently covers the Buffalo Public Schools beat. She previously covered the Williamsville school district and was a full-time education reporter for five years prior to joining The News. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

@BNschoolzone |

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams began working for The Buffalo News in 1999 and currently covers Buffalo Public Schools. She formerly was a suburban reporter on the Northtowns beat and has been a cityside reporter covering communities since 2004. Williams has a mass communications degree from Towson University.

@DeidreWilliamsB |