Brooke Hauser's new book, "The New Kids," follows a year in the life of students at International High School in Prospect Heights, a small school that caters to immigrants.
Among the book's many highs and lows is a moment at the end of the Class of 2009's school year when five students receive college scholarships from Jerry Seinfeld's foundation. Fifteen students in the city received the scholarships, and five were members of International's Class of 2009. (Another moment is prom, the event that led to Hauser's 2008 New York Times story and inspired the book.)
We recently spoke to three of those winners, now college juniors. They are Mukta Mukta, seen wrestling with her religion and independence throughout the book; Freeman Degboe, a ham who introduces himself to Seinfeld as "the next Jerry Seinfeld"; and Marie Feline Guerrier, a mini-celebrity in Brooklyn's Haitian community.
Mukta, who immigrated from Bangladesh in 2002, is now a junior nursing major at the University of Vermont. Degboe, who came to the United States from Togo in 2006, joins her there and is now studying film and television. Guerrier, a Haitian immigrant, is now studying health sciences and nursing at Long Island University.
Mukta Mukta is a junior nursing major at the University of Vermont.
How did you end up at International High School?
MM: In 2002 I moved to Nebraska first, and I went to school there for two and a half years. I was here in March at the very end of the year, so I started in New York with sixth grade. I was in a middle school in New York and one of my teachers – an English teacher – told me about International and she told me it’s a great school, it’s a new school, and it’s a small school with less students and I got in.
FD: My father moved first and then he brought the rest of us to Brooklyn. During that first week we tried to go to different schools. We went to I.S. 292, but they only took my little sister because they said I was too old. So, they sent us to this office and they told me to go to International High School. I went there and they told me to come back after break – I think it was second semester. I didn’t have to take any tests; I just showed my transcripts from Togo and they accepted me.
MFG: My dad had a friend of his who knew about high schools and who referred me to International High School. My high school experience started shaky, but I said to myself I am in the United States and the reason I came here was for a better future. Especially for Haitians, graduating is a great thing and they believe in education. My family worked hard to bring me here so it’s my job to work hard, not just to make then proud but to help me in the future.