In a first-floor office at Liberation Diploma Plus, a high school just three blocks from Coney Island’s famous beach, a pile of SAT study books bulge with filthy water.
Desks are flung on their sides. The contents of the school supply closet—pencils, tape, paper, and folders—lie ruined on the floor. A layer of black, sewage-laced sand covers the cafeteria tables, and two refrigerators rest on their sides in dark puddles left over from the flood of sea water that consumed the school at the height of Superstorm Sandy.
Motivational posters, taped high on the wall, are all that’s untouched on the first of the school’s two floors. “You are not finished when you lose, you are finished when you quit,” reads one.
The students who attend Liberation Diploma Plus are by definition survivors. They’re young people who have considered dropping out of school after dealing with the trauma of poverty, family troubles, gangs, violence and other problems that get in the way of academic success. Each ultimately found Liberation, and grabbed one last chance to earn a high school diploma.