San Francisco students living ‘a dream’ at International High

International High School
There for the kids: Angelina Romano runs the wellness center at International High School, providing students advice on everything from birth control to their schedule. (Mike Koozmin/The Examiner)
Three years ago, Manuel Sola left his family in Honduras to come to San Francisco on his own. The soft-spoken teen planned to work and send money home.

“When you come to United States, you have a dream to help your family,” he said. “America is a dream — it’s a dream that everybody has.”

Sola soon realized that learning English was the best way to get ahead, and when he learned school was free here, he signed up.

“In our country, if you don’t have money, you can’t go to school,” he explained.

Sola, 18, is now a junior at the San Francisco Unified School District’s International High School, where he learns alongside fellow immigrants from countries as far-flung as China, Kazakhstan and Morocco. For its first two years, the school was housed in a section of Mission High School, but this year it got its own building, the former Bryant Elementary School in the Mission District.

“It feels like validation,” co-Principal Sonia Geerdes said.

Unlike other schools, International High focuses on teaching English to students who arrive knowing very little. But teachers — most of whom are multilingual — encourage students to keep using their native languages as well.

“I’m always amazed by how resilient our students are, how they work for their education, what that really means,” Geerdes said.

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