Opinion: ‘Learning to Work’ Program Cuts Threaten the Futures of Students Like Me

I always loved school, and I was always a good student. I always pictured myself going to college, and I knew that it would take work, motivation and focus to get there. But when I got kicked out of my Catholic high school at age 15, this future was on the line.

South Brooklyn Community High School–an alternative transfer school for students who have fallen off track–helped me revive these dreams. That’s why, with the city planning to cut $10 million from the Learning to Work program, which is essential to schools like South Brooklyn, I need you to know my story and the stories of so many students like me.

In fact, a recent report published by The Public Science Project at the CUNY Graduate Center confirms that transfer schools help thousands of students like me across New York City. While students face different kinds of obstacles in their previous schools, from mental health to family obligations or just a lack of support, they found trusting relationships and a new sense of purpose at their transfer schools.

I got kicked out of my first high school after getting into a fight–the first fight I’d ever been in. It’s not a moment I’m proud of, but the school’s response was even worse. The conflict was ignored, and I felt blamed. No one had my back. Since they didn’t care, I didn’t care. For three months, I didn’t show up. Maybe I knew I was provoking the nuns at my school when I came back with newly dyed bright green hair and a fresh face piercing, but I never thought they would kick me out. When they did, I was scared. Would I earn a high school diploma? How would I get from expulsion to college?

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