E.L.L.I.S. bids goodbye
By Sarina Trangle
The moment the initial chords of James Brown’s “I Feel Good” echoed across the auditorium, students in the first graduating class at E.L.L.I.S. broke out into dance.
More than 30 seniors stepped to the beat and swung their hips while practicing their commencement recessional in the John F. Kennedy Campus auditorium Monday. Whistles and cheers accompanied the graduates as they walked across the stage.
Many leaving the English Language Learners and International Support (E.L.L.I.S.)Preparatory Academy said they had plenty to celebrate. Immigrant students recalled understanding only a word or two of English four years ago during their first class in America. Soon, they would be leaving their Tuesday commencement ceremony on Ellis Island with diplomas in hand.
Principal Norma Vega founded E.L.L.I.S. in 2008 to serve recent immigrants whose needs she thought were not being met in Bronx schools. The Kennedy campus school is for 16- to 20-year-old international students.
Yarlyn Mercedes, 20, of Washington Heights, said it was “an honor” to graduate where millions of immigrants before her first entered the country.
“We are immigrants and the people who were there are immigrants. It’s just very historical,” she said. “There are people who said ‘you can’t do it’ because you don’t know English and you’re new to the country. Now we’re doing it.”
Ms. Mercedes said she was overwhelmed when she arrived in America at 17 and learned she had to repeat most of the high school curriculum she completed in the Dominican Republic. She described E.L.L.I.S. as difficult when she started there in Sept. 2009. By the summer of 2010, however, she had passed all of her Regents and decided to enroll in college math courses while racking up enough credits to graduate a year early.
“Sometimes you’re thinking you’re going to stop school. But I kept looking at my mother. I was born when she was 15. She had my sister when she was 16, and she finished high school. When she was 24, she started college,” said Ms. Mercedes, who plans to study sociology or international studies at SUNY Oneonda.
KeywordsSarina Trangle, school desk, schools, E.L.L.I.S., gradation, John F. Kennedy Campus, James Brown