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Cheick’s Story

Cheick, an immigrant student from Mali, arrived in the U.S. on his own at age 16 and enrolled in a large public high school in Brooklyn. Cheick is a highly motivated and respectful student, but less than a year after starting school, he was called to the principal’s office and told—illegally—that he had to leave and transfer to a high school equivalency program. His guidance counselor did not explain the difference between a high school diploma and a high school equivalency diploma and did not tell Cheick he had the right to stay in school until he was 21. In addition, though Cheick had finished 11th grade in Mali, the Department of Education (DOE) never translated his school records from his native French, and he was not given any credit for the coursework he had already completed.

Luckily, Cheick was referred to Advocates for Children. After learning about his rights and the differences between the programs, he was very eager to return to high school, as he wanted to take all of the necessary courses to be able to attend college. AFC assisted Cheick in finding a new school, one where he could work towards a high school diploma and have support learning English. With our help, he enrolled at Brooklyn International High School (BIHS), which serves recently arrived immigrant youth. Cheick was especially excited to be able to attend a school where there were other students from West Africa, and he describes being welcomed by the principal and staff at BIHS as “the beginning of my happiness.” Cheick quickly settled in, completing an internship and making steady progress. He graduated in June 2017 and is headed to Guttman Community College to study international business administration!