Teenagers without English skills face highest high school hurdles of all

“It’s slow going when you start that stuff at 16, 18,” said Sandra Hall, who co-founded St. Paul’s LEAP High School, which serves recent immigrants who face exactly those challenges. “They may actually, in some things, go faster than little kids. But how much time have they got?”

Getting older new immigrants to graduate is “almost impossible,” she said, even if they stay until they age out.

At LEAP, which stands for Limited English Achievement Program, about 60 percent of students have never attended school and most are 18-21 years old.

Even those who succeed say the clock ticks loudly, adding to already stressful lives.

“It’s not easy to get [a] high school diploma – there are so many requirement classes to take,” said Padam Dhungana, a 2011 LEAP graduate who came to Minnesota from a Nepalese refugee camp at 16. “We have only [a short] period of time to catch everything,” making it a challenging job.

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