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Organizations Rally for NYC to Add Schools in Brooklyn, Queens for Immigrant Students

A Brooklyn-based organization assisting young immigrant students held a rally to demand more schools tailored to Black bilingual immigrant learners.

Since the spring of 2022, more than 190,000 migrants have come through New York City’s intake system, according to Mayor Eric Adams’ office. Of those, research suggests tens of thousands are migrant children who have recently enrolled in New York City public schools. 

As more multilingual immigrant students enroll, some advocates are asking the city to build more schools with better resources tailored to the needs of these learners.

At the Flatbush and Nostrand Ave. junction in Brooklyn last week, dozens of community leaders, immigrant students and parents called on Adams, NYC Schools Chancellor David C. Banks and the Office for Multilingual Learners to increase support for the rising population of immigrant students. 

“What do we want?” Flanbwayan Literacy Project Founder and Director Darnell Benoit chanted into a megaphone. “More schools!” the crowd responded. 

Community leaders, parents, and students at the rally. Photo: Ralph Thomassaint Joseph for Documented.

Benoit and those at the rally said NYC, which has the largest school district in the United States, should build three new high schools in Brooklyn and Queens tailored to the needs of bilingual immigrant students, like Manhattan Comprehensive Night and Day High School and Emma Lazarus High School in Manhattan.

Also Read: New York’s Only Organization Helping Young Haitian Students Struggles to Meet Demand

“These schools really understand what immigrant students need,” said Benoit. “They are specific in the way they teach. They have internship opportunities, social workers, and counselors committed to students’ success.”

On April 24, 2024, dozens of organizations, community leaders, students, and parents gathered in Brooklyn to rally against Mayor Eric Adams, Chancellor David C. Banks, and the Department of Education

Flanbwayan, an organization that works with newly arrived young immigrant students to support them in New York’s public school system, led the rally with Benoit sharing that protestors feel the city’s education policies that continue to marginalize many immigrant students. 

Benoit says the New York City public schools fail to adequately address the school shortage and lack a supportive enrollment process for immigrant students. 

In addition to creating three new high schools, Flanbwayan and other organizations at the rally demanded more adequate funding for academic support. They asked that schools have access to college assistance, social workers at the school programs, social and summer programs, and job readiness, as well as career exploration programs.

Rally participants are asking the city build three additional schools tailored to immigrant students. Photo: Ralph Thomassaint Joseph for Documented.

Among the participants at the rally was 18-year-old Sley Kenroff, who came to New York in October 2023. Kenroof is a French citizen born to Haitian parents. He said that when he came to the city, he was told that he couldn’t enroll in school because he was too old. But thanks to Flanbwayan, he was able to enroll in Prospect Heights International High School one week ago. 

“I know many young immigrants like me who were not so lucky. I want more schools for young immigrant students like me,” he said in French. 

Also Read: NYC Schools and Head Start: What Immigrant and Undocumented Parents Need to Know

Matthew Monsignac, another young student at the rally, said his school was overcrowded, among other concerns. 

“There are not enough teachers,” he said. “My school needs more funding to address the needs of their students. I want schools that can provide resources for immigrant students and schools that have teachers to help immigrant students learn and graduate in high schools.” 

According to the Department of Education, in the 2022-23 school year, there were 1,047,895 students in the NYC school system, and 14.1% of these students were English Language Learners. 

“We know that the budget that was passed last year has about $514 million dollars of new money coming in the school year, but we don’t have anything about immigrant students to serve those students,” said Nancy Adolphe, program director at Flanbwayan Literacy Project. “We are also about to get nine new schools in the fall and none of those schools are for immigrant students.”

In the city’s current Executive Budget, the Adams administration has secured $514 million to fund the Department of Education’s programming, of which $10 million will be allocated to bilingual education and related programs. 

“We need to do better,” said Assemblymember Phara Souffrant Forrest during her speech at the rally. “Whether you came in a Mayflower, you came on a boat, you came on a plane, you walked over, you came here, so now, in the land of freedom, you deserve an education to live the way you want to live so that you can prosper, like everybody else.”

In a statement provided to Documented, the NYC Department of Education (DOE) said it is constantly working with advocates and partners to provide a variety of resources to multilingual immigrant students and expressed gratitude for the important work being done to serve these students.

“We work aggressively to meet the evolving needs of our most vulnerable students, which is why we have schools like the Manhattan International High School and the International High School, specifically dedicated to serving English Language Learners,” the DOE said.

The statement noted that over 500 bilingual programs exist throughout the New York City Public School system in the five boroughs and that four new schools opening in September will provide bilingual education.

In response to the DOE’s statement, Benoit said: “This is great for NYC, but older multilingual learners continue to be neglected, and there aren’t enough schools like Manhattan Comprehensive to support all these students. That’s why we need more schools serving 17 to 21-year-old newcomers in Brooklyn and Queens.”

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