In the feature-length documentary film, '”I Learn America,” five resilient immigrant teenagers come together over a year 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. The students strive to master English, adapt to families they haven’t seen in years, confront the universal trials of adolescence, and search for a future they can claim as their own. We follow them over a school year, in, after, and outside of school, to gain intimate access. We experience first-hand the many difficulties of coping with a foreign culture and contending with adolescence. Through these five vibrant young people, their stories and struggles, and their willingness to open their lives and share them with us, we “learn America.”
The film is an immigrant coming-of-age story, beginning with each character’s sense of loss, struggle, and hope, and ending with their assertion of self, family, and community. The revelation of character occurs through the particulars of their daily lives and the raw emotion of adolescence. Amidst the timeless customs of American high school – dating, cliques, sports, prom, graduation, and through their eyes, we rediscover our country and our world as the children of immigration learn their new land.
Their lives are often confusing, lonely, and discouraging, but with courage, love, and humor, they persevere. In many ways, they are teenagers forging a complex new identity as ordinary people coming of age and becoming Americans in extraordinary circumstances.
Watch "I Learn America" - Sunday, January 19th 9E/6P on Al Jazeera America Presents