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Our Stories


A Shining Star: Harry Montas

Harry Montas takes pride in being a self-taught photographer. In his teen years, his hunger to learn more about photography led him toward YouTube, where he spent hours watching tutorials on the craft that inspired him. While his interest in photography was growing, his attention for school had been on a steady decline. “I was kicked out of my first high


Shining Star: Kelly Castillo

Judged. Labeled. Stuck. These were the words Kelly Castillo used to describe her experience in school after returning to New York City following seven years living in the Dominican Republic.   At age 12, she was placed into English as a Second Language (ESL) classrooms to build proficiency in the English language.  Kelly excelled and


Shining Star: Matthew Singh

Matthew Singh has a strong belief in purpose, he always has. Amidst the crowded halls of his high school, he has long struggled to find his path despite an aching feeling that something more was awaiting him.     During his first two years of high school, Matthew said he had lost his way when


Shining Star: Kelsey Fuentes

From childhood on, Kelsey Fuentes knew she had a bright mind, one that would take her anywhere she wanted to go. Learning always came easy to the now 26-year-old alum of East Side House. Yet, her curious mind could never quite be contained by a classroom. “I’ve always had dreams, but a few of them were just


Shining Star: Diandra Shears

“I’m outta here.” These were the words Diandra Shears remembers saying to herself in the 10th grade. Following her mother’s incarceration, a falling out with her stepfather and multiple fights at school, suspensions and a series of other traumatic life events, Diandra saw no other options. “I was fighting up to three times a week. School