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