NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Remote learning is particularly hard on the thousands of New York City students who don’t have reliable internet at home.

CBS2’s Ali Bauman went to a school in Brooklyn that’s trying to connect with students, even when they don’t have internet connection.

Seventeen-year-old Joshua Applewhite reads his own poetry: “I’m the type that trusts and never stops believing.”

Just one year ago, this Brooklyn student would not even recognize himself.

“I could not really articular myself well, and I could not hold a conversation,” Joshua said.

That changed last year when he enrolled in Liberation Diploma Plus High School in Coney Island.

“Being around so many people that would inspire me, that would support me. It was a real school environment,” Joshua said.

“Did you see the results and the changes in your grades?” Bauman asked.

“Yeah, yeah, like, they shot up. I went from struggling with 65s to 90s, 80s, and for me, that was big because people were used to seeing me fail,” Joshua said.

Schools: The New Normal

Liberation is a transfer school, a public school specifically for teens at risk of not graduating.

“We take in the need for social, emotional supports in a different kind of way,” Principal April Leong said. “I know the importance of our students finding safety inside of the building … Trying to communicate that feeling remotely is extremely difficult.”

When schools switched to remote learning in the spring, Joshua slipped back to old habits.

“I felt like I ended up repeating a cycle that I thought I finished,” he said.

Without a classroom, he was able to find support in Inspiring Minds, a nonprofit specializing in youth development.

“By helping them with their social, emotional needs, that then puts them in a position to focus more on their academics,” said Katrena Perou, with Inspiring Minds.

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Now, with the start of a new school year, Leong is trying to keep all her students engaged remotely, but that’s even harder when many don’t have reliable technology.

“Even students who received the iPads had issues with not being able to have the Wi-Fi functional,” she said. “We really do not have the teachers and the support that we need to educate the students the way they deserve to be educated.”

A school reliant on human connection is now limited by internet connectivity.

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  1. Arlene Johnson says:

    I am a teacher at LIB and I can;t sing LIB’s praises enough. I was an ATR and LIB welcomed me with open arms. Ms. Leong gave me a chance to be a member of the community and I want to do everything I can to help LIB’s students. The kids are great- they may not fit the mold of a traditional high school, but here, they shine. I am honored to be a member of this family. So many principals throw around the word family but don’t know the names of their students. Principal Leong reminded me of why I went into the field of teaching in the first place. We should all be so lucky to have a place like LIB to send our children. Joshua has grown and flourished and I am proud to be his teacher. So many of my former colleagues have grown weary and disillusioned under the regimes of principals who don’t really care. Ms. Leong is the inspiration all teachers need to remember it is always about the children. Thank you CBS for showing that to the public. We have a duty to make this world a better place and Lord knows we didn’t go into teaching for the money. We went in for the future of all our children.

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