Since graduating from college in 2000, Hermana Liliana Polo has followed her dream to open a school that would serve underrepresented youth. She took the steps necessary and gained the training that in enabled her dream become a reality. In July 2006, Liliana founded The West Brooklyn Community High School, a transfer school serving 200 students who have previously dropped out of school or have become excessively truant, and have made the decision to reengage in the process to achieve a high school diploma. Since opening the school, Liliana has served as the principal. She spends endless hours dedicated to the schools success which she measures in the form of her students’ success.
West Brooklyn Community High is a transfer school with students from grade 10 through 12. The school’s demographics are comprised of 24% Black, 58% Hispanic, 15% White, and 3% Asian. The student body includes 2% English language learners and 7% special education students. Boys account for 45% of the students enrolled and girls account for 55%. The school opened as a transfer school in September 2006 and is co-led by New York Department of Education and Good Shepherd Services. Most students enter the school under-credited and over-age (16 – 20 years of age) and have attended between two to four different schools before enrolling at this school. In other words this is often the last opportunity for many of the students to earn their high school diploma. Students are expected to complete 44 credits and 5 Regents (New York State standard proficiency test) within 18 to 24 months to graduate with a high school diploma. This is no small feat when you consider a majority of the students that enter West Brooklyn Community High School were unable to perform well in a traditional school and enter at a lower than average proficiency level.
The school’s statistics serve as proof of all the accomplishments Liliana has achieved in a short period of time. The school received the top grade, an A for 3 of the 4 graded areas, “Student Performance”, Student Progress”, and “Overall” and a B for the 5th category, “School Environment”. Not only did she outperform many of the other transfer schools she also was able to surpass the achievements of many of New York City’s traditional high schools. Besides providing the tools her students need for graduation, Liliana also works hard to prepare them to continue their education by attending college. “Very strong leadership, shared between the school principal and the Good Shepherd program director contribute to successful student outcomes.” Sue Alton, New York City Department of Education Lead Reviewer, February 2008.