The Big Pitch

22 min

San Francisco International High School is the city’s only high school exclusively for recently arrived immigrants. But you can also think of it as a factory.

What comes in are immigrant teenagers speaking 18 different languages, including Arabic, Russian, Tagalog and Spanish. Many haven’t been to school in years. Some have never used a three-ring binder, navigated a city or shared a classroom with a member of the opposite sex.

What’s intended to come out are Americans with the full range of American options: go to college, be a scholar, a scientist, an engineer. Every teacher here believes education is central to improving your life. But the students don’t always feel that way, at least at first.

Seth Samuel composed the music for this piece.

 

San Francisco International High School, the only high school in the city exclusively for recent immigrants, prepares 380 immigrant youth for careers and college.
San Francisco International High School, the only high school in the city exclusively for recent immigrants, prepares 380 immigrant youth for careers and college. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)
Twelfth-grade English class at San Francisco International High School. While these students come from widely different backgrounds, nearly all have a story about escaping something: war, gang violence, economic hardship.
Students at San Francisco International High School. While these students have widely different backgrounds, nearly all have a story about escaping something: war, gang violence, economic hardship. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)
Teachers at San Francisco International High School work with students speaking 18 different languages, from Russian to Tagalog.
Teachers at San Francisco International High School work with students speaking 18 different languages, from Russian to Tagalog. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)
Students between classes at San Francisco International High School. Unlike at conventional high schools, students at SF International arrive and begin school all year long. Some students haven't attended school in years.
Students between classes at San Francisco International High School. Unlike at conventional high schools, students at SF International arrive and begin school all year long. Some students haven't attended school in years. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)
Murals cover the walls of San Francisco International High School, which is in the city’s Mission District.
Murals cover the walls of San Francisco International High School, which is in the city’s Mission District. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

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