Teenagers without English skills face highest high school hurdles of all

NEW CHALLENGES

Student success often hinges on how much formal education they’ve had before coming to this country.

While some arrive in the K-12 system with credits that transfer, others don’t know how to read.

Dhungana attended school at the camp and knew some English, but still faced a steep learning curve. When he enrolled at LEAP, he said, he understood about 5 percent of what people were saying.

At Wellstone, the yearly graduation rate fluctuates depending on the number of students who come in with formal education, Fearing said.

Orville Harris, a senior, is one of these students. He arrived in the U.S. from his native Jamaica at 15. Like Dhungana, he started school already knowing some English.

When he talks to his friends about life after high school, their plans range from practical to grandiose.

“One of my friends wants to be a pro soccer player,” he said. “Some of them don’t really know what they want to do yet. Some of them are thinking about joining the army.”

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