By Aundrea Cline-Thomas

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — More than 100 education advocates in New York are asking the state to give students more time to graduate high school.

The request is a result of the impact of the pandemic and would especially benefit the most vulnerable students.

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In January, Kenny Abraham became a proud high school graduate, just six months shy of his 22nd birthday.

“This was the happiest day of my life,” Abraham told CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas.

It was a long road since immigrating from Haiti in the ninth grade.

School was difficult and Abraham also had to help his family financially. By the time the pandemic hit, he was juggling three jobs and his classes.

“I spoke to my supervisors … I used to be in class during while I’m working,” Abraham said.


Under normal circumstances, Abraham would have aged out of high school last year, but he was able to graduate because of a directive from the state Department of Education that allowed 21-year-olds one extra year to complete their credits because of the pandemic.

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With that directive set to expire this year, more than 100 advocates signed a letter asking state leaders for another extension.

“We know that anytime a barrier comes up for a student, they’re less likely to finish their high school diploma,” said Ashley Grant, with Advocates for Children.

Thousands of students would be impacted — mainly English language learners and those with disabilities who need transition services that can’t be done remotely.

“So that might mean connecting to adult services, that might mean doing work-based learning,” Grant said.

As for Abraham…

“Having a high school diploma, this is one step, but it’s not the last step,” he said.

It’s one step closer to a brighter future.

Abraham says he wants to open his own auto body shop one day.

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CBS2 reached out to the state Department of Education. Officials say they are reviewing the issue.

Aundrea Cline-Thomas