Washington's scrappy high school for immigrant children is out of the basement and thriving in new quarters this fall.
The Multicultural Intern Program has moved out of a crowded corner of Lincoln Junior High School in Columbia Heights and into a larger space at the adjacent Bell Career Center. The move, says Maria Tukeva, director of the semipublic school, has opened new opportunities for the 400 students from more than 40 countries.
"We're able to function more as a regular high school," said Tukeva, who has guided program through a shifting mix of locations and funding sources since the school opened eight years ago. The school now gets most of its money from the D.C. school system, although it also depends on corporate, federal and foundation funds.
By staying partially private, the program has been better able to retain its unusual structure, in which classes are held year-round, students are arranged by proficiency in English rather than their age, and all students get work internships.
The new location, in a vocational center used by students from several District high schools, has enabled program students to take vocational courses for the first time and to mix with nonimmigrant students their own age. And getting out of Lincoln Junior High, where program students had frequent run-ins with nonimmigrant students, has improved the school's atmosphere and offerings, Tukeva said.
"Now we can give the students more responsibility, such as their own meeting areas for a student government," she said. Also, the new facility has allowed the school to grow by about 50 students this fall.
More than half of program students are from Latin America; Ethiopians (15 percent) are the next largest group, followed by Haitians (12 percent).