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AT THE INTERNATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL AT LAFAYETTE, A BROOKLYN PUBLIC SCHOOL DEDICATED TO NEWLY ARRIVED IMMIGRANTS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD, FIVE TEENAGERS STRIVE TO MASTER ENGLISH, ADAPT TO FAMILIES THEY HAVEN'T SEEN IN YEARS, AND CREATE A FUTURE OF THEIR OWN WHILE COMING OF AGE IN A NEW LAND.
The New Educational Edition Made Available Through NEWDAY Features: Theatrical version (92 minutes) -- Abridged classroom version (50 minutes) -- Menu to key scenes -- English Closed Captioning for English Learners -- Spanish, French, Arabic subtitle translations -- Links to resources for educators.
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"Through the experience of five diverse, endearing, and complex adolescents, we gain insights into common denominators of newcomer immigrants' experience--identity explorations, loneliness and budding friendships, language dislocation, family separations and complicated reunifications, complicated documented statuses, and the power of a supportive school environment."
In "I Learn America,” five resilient immigrant teenagers come together at the International High School at Lafayette and struggle to learn their new land.
The International High School is a New York City public school dedicated to serving newly arrived immigrant teenagers, with more than 300 students speaking two-dozen languages from 50 countries.
Meet the students:
SING is a refugee from Myanmar who has recently relocated to Brooklyn, leaving his family behind. He is isolated, angry and barely speaks English. Will he accept the help of his English teacher?
BRANDON made the journey from Guatemala to America to reunite with his mother after ten years apart. Crossing the desert and making the perilous journey was easy compared to getting to know his mom again. Will he be able to meet her expectations to do well in America?
SANDRA (17, Poland) is a tomboy, a class leader and she’s also undocumented. She and JENNIFFER, a sassy classmate from the Dominican Republic, are inseparable best friends – “like a flower with water.” Sandra has grown confident in identifying as a girl who dresses as a boy, but as she faces graduation, she fears that being undocumented means she will lose all they have been able to gain once they leave the security of the school.
ITRAT came to America from Pakistan to join her father, a traditional Shia Muslim. She barely knew him after the passing of her mother. What kind of future is waiting for her in America? Will she return to Pakistan to marry or will she go to college and build her independence?
Over a school year, amidst the complexity and diversity of American life in and out of school, through Itrat, Sandra, jenniffer, Brandon and Sing, we “learn America.”
"At Teaching Tolerance, we've grown more and more fond of the students whose stories we hear with each viewing. So many details in the film overlap or exemplify the work Teaching Tolerance is doing. We focus in four domains —Identity, Diversity, Justice and Action— And the potential of the stories in the film reflect our desired impact of successful anti-bias and multicultural education on student personal and social development. The stories in the film (if well used) can help educators take action and create the conditions that bring the main components to culturally responsive pedagogy to life. The film has tremendous value to the 450,000 educators we work with across the USA."
"It’s a wonderful film… All adolescents are experiencing transition between who they were as children and who they’ve become as adults. Issues about sexuality, issues about race, issues about friendship, issue how you renegotiate your lives with your parents - Those are difficult issues for anybody. To go through those at the very moment you are transitioning to a new society is a very difficult experience -- Nevertheless, for all the struggles related to this experience, it also puts people in a situation where they have to think in new and different ways. They have to work it out in interesting and creative ways as the film illustrates so well.”
"I Learn America is a great teaching tool. Preparing social workers and educators to translate their intellectual knowledge into empathy and insight happens with this film and the discussions that follow. The human face of news comes alive as do the very real daily lives of young people -and institutions serving them- in a way that fosters both understanding and action."
“There’s no denying the film’s social relevance, especially considering the fact that one out of four children in America is an immigrant. As is made all too movingly clear, the normal pressures of adolescence are sharply intensified by the cultural, legal and linguistic barriers that these youngsters must inevitably face.”
“The five teens open up deeply and without reserve, which is somewhat astonishing, considering how self-conscious and eager to fit high school students can be.”
“On top of learning a new language, a new culture, navigating a new city, reuniting with their family, making friends at a new school, this kids also have all the teenage crap, the acne, the hormones… It astounds me that they even show up to school.”