Participant Profile: Jemimah

Imagine arriving in New York City speaking mostly Twi, a language so obscure that only a few people in a city of millions know it. Now, go to school with native English speakers and try to keep up without a translator. While it sounds like the stuff of nightmares, it only served to fuel the determination of Jemimah Frempong, an eighth grader at the Bronx Preparatory Charter School who is not only on grade level but is surpassing her peers.

Born in Ghana, Jemimah relocated to the Bronx with her father and older sister when she was six years old. Her younger sister and mother remained in Ghana with plans to move New York as soon as possible. Her big sister could provide support but attended a different school; Jemimah had no one who spoke her language at school.  By the time she arrived at Bronx Prep as a fifth grader, the quiet girl had managed to get by without attracting attention to the fact that she had not received a proper foundation for reading and writing English. Jemimah’s reticence reflected her family’s culture, “If you are disrespectful in Ghana, then you were in the worst trouble ever.” However, careful observation by CAS-Carrera’s academic team indicated that she would need some extra supports to thrive. Having witnessed the value of hard work and sacrifice through her family’s journey to the U.S., Jemimah was especially reluctant to ask for help. In response, the dedicated CAS-Carrera staff launched a daily, gentle, and steady effort to build trust. By January of her first year with CAS-Carrera, Jemimah asked to join “Lunch Posse” -- daily group and one-on-one academic enrichment sessions led by CAS-Carrera Education Coordinator Janine Williams.

With Ms. Williams’ guidance she gained confidence in the classroom: contributing to classroom conversation, collaborating with peers, and attacking learning with curiosity, confidence and enthusiasm. By spring, however, Jemimah uncharacteristically began to be disruptive in class and at her beloved Lunch Posse. Thanks to their close rapport, Jemimah confided in Ms. Williams that some of her classmates – feeling competitive and resentful -- were mocking her for having been singled out by classroom teachers for her new-found academic prowess. “Sometimes I just play dumb, Miss Williams,” Jemimah admitted.

CAS-Carrera is built on seven integrated components: Education; Job Club; Mental Health; Family Life and Sexuality Education; Lifetime Individual Sports; Self-Expression; and Medical and Dental Services. The components work in concert to address needs that do not fall neatly into any one category. In that connection, Ms. Williams teamed up with CAS-Carrera Social Worker Ellen Vandeloo to encourage Jemimah to discuss peer conflict and develop solutions. Likewise, Ms. Vandeloo utilized Power Group, a weekly group socialization class, to address behaviors within the larger group that could present obstacles to learning.

Today, Jemimah is a voracious reader, constantly looking for a good book series having devoured “The Hunger Games” trilogy in short order. Her younger sister has joined the family in America and CAS-Carrera at Bronx Prep, and her mother’s arrival in America is imminent. With solid support from her family and CAS-Carrera, Jemimah is on track to fulfill her goal to be the first in her family to attend Harvard University.