ESH Program Offers Second Chances and New Horizons

It’s 5:00pm and the hallways are full of young adults adorned in button down shirts and neckties. 

Angel, a friendly young man sits down and early begins to tell his story. He’s a 2nd year student at Lehman High School campus’s YABC program. 

“Mr. Smallhorne makes us dress up to come to school. When you see yourself dressed well everyday, you think, ‘I’m worth a million bucks’,” he explains.

Mr. Smallhorne is the principal of Lehman Young Adult Borough Centers (YABC), a second chance program designed for students 17-21 who’ve fallen off track in their original high schools and need that extra support in order graduate. Ninety-eight percent of those who applied to college attended— higher than any other YABC program in the city— something that may never have seemed possible before enrolling in the program. 

This past Wednesday, Lehman YABC hosted their College Fair. Fifteen colleges, and training institutions set up shop in Lehman High School’s cafeteria. Here, advisors and counselors push their 100+ students out of their comfort zones to start considering their futures. 

Adriana, a soft-spoken girl in her first year at YABC, reveals that until she started the program, she never went to class in her former high school and used to believe that post-secondary education wasn’t even an option for her. 

“But then I saw there was a beauty school there, which I’ve always been interested in. My advisor brought me and another girl to the table to talk to the man working there. He told me, ‘Yeah, apply to the school!’, gave me financial aid information, and now we both have an appointment to visit,” Adriana gushes. 

College trips are often a gateway for many students, some of whom have never left New York City before, to imagine their futures. Brittany, a recent program graduate, speaks about a trip to Washington, D.C. and Baltimore where she and her classmates visited Towson, Morgan State, and Howard Universities.

“I used to be really nervous thinking about college.  But now I feel excited and know that I have to do this, I have to take that step,” she says, sharing that in January she’ll be going away to school in Upstate New York and credits YABC’s staff for supporting her growth. 

For many of our students, college trips and fairs are their first introduction to higher education, opening up a world of new possibilities.