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.

WHEN PURCHASING, GET 15% DISCOUNT BY USING THIS "NEW RELEASE" CODE:  ILA015

"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."

Carola Suarez Orozco - Co-Director, UCLA’s Institute for Immigration, Globalization, and Education
Synopsis: 

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.”

Reviews

"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."

Sara L. Wicht - Senior Manager, Teaching and Learning Teaching Tolerance, a project of The Southern Poverty Law Center

"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.”

Philip Kasinitz - Professor of Sociology at the Graduate Center and Hunter College of the City University of New York

"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."

Westy Egmont Immigrant Integration Lab, Boston College School of Social Work

“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 Hollywood Reporter

“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.” 

The Toronto's Examiner

“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.”

Michael Soet, Principal at the International High School at Lafayette
Director's Commentary: 

In America, nearly one in four children is an immigrant or was born to immigrant parents.  

Our classrooms are meeting a growing influx of students who speak little to no English, who are unfamiliar with American culture, and, in some cases, who lack formal education. The fate of these young immigrants is at the core of America’s continually emerging identity.

Here to stay, they are the future, and how we fare in welcoming them will define who we are for years to come.

Schools – the first and ultimate hope for integration – are generally ill-equipped to serve immigrant teenagers. The traditional paradigm relegates them to the sidelines.  Yet school offers their first chance for sustained and meaningful participation in a new society.  It is in school that they determine where they belong in the reality and imagination of their new culture.  It is through interactions with classmates, teachers, and social workers that they shape their identities.

At Lafayette, we see one school’s efforts to prepare teenage immigrants for the complexity and diversity of life in America. The exhilarating work and individuals at Lafayette, as well as the personal transformation we see in our characters, show the power of putting young immigrants front and center. Our characters’ journeys are rooted in repressive governments, economic necessity, and family separation; yet, against a backdrop of larger social issues, they have found a haven for becoming themselves in America.