Newcomers in New York: The Project

Marisa Cadena Belski - NYC - diploma Graduating high school is an emotional time for any teen.  It can be a simultaneously scary and exciting experience, a mix of anxious emotions to embark on a new life outside the confines (and safety) of the school, to tread the waters of the ‘real world.’  The story incurs an added twist when that apprehensive teen happens to be an English Language Learner who immigrated only a few years prior.  The opportunities and obstacles that that youth will encounter upon graduation are daunting.  Many newcomer youth have had interrupted schooling and have immigrated during their high school years.  They have been uprooted for a multitude of reasons by their families (or own volition) and landed in New York City with hopes of finishing their education and commencing a new life full opportunities.  The reality they encounter is not an easy one; most have not learned English prior to migration and many have to repeat years of schooling because records or curriculum from the home country do not transfer (Suárez-Orozco, Suárez-Orozco and Todorova, 2008).  This is all paired with a cultural and linguistic shock on top of the stressful (and sometimes violent) process of migrating.  Currently, an estimated 30% of 68 million youth are of foreign descent in the U.S.  Subsequently, these youth and their children will have a great impact on the trajectory of higher education and the labor market, as well as the cultural and political landscape of this nation (Rumbaut and Komazie, 2010:45; Flanagan and Levine 2010; Lopez and Marcelo 2008; Stepick, Stepick and Labisserie 2008).

It is important to understand this growing population to ensure they have the chance to positively contribute to the U.S. economy and society, as well as have the chance to accomplish any goal that they set forth.  By following the decision-making processes of these youth coupled with an insider view of their lives will provide a vital understanding of what institutional and societal obstacles and opportunities exist to help or hinder them in accomplishing their goals.  In my preliminary assessment of the students’ situations and recent research, it has become apparent that there remains a dearth of understanding of the particular needs and experiences of newcomer young adults in the U.S, especially as they transition out of the high school educational institution.

Marisa Cadena Belski - NYC - Graduation 2That is why I have not traveled to conduct my research but rather am looking in my own “backyard” so to speak— New York City.  My project, “The Summer After: An Investigation into the Experiences of Newcomer Immigrant Youth Post High School Graduation” seeks to understand the processes of transitioning out of high school through the words and images of recently graduated newcomer youth to understand the situations they encounter as they graduate and enter the ‘real world’.  Four young women hailing from the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Thailand are working with me to create a blog ( about their experiences.  By structuring the collaborative ethnography around a publicly accessible social media format, the young women are consciously engaging not only with the research, but also the greater public.

Posted by Marisa Cadena Belski – MA Candidate at CLACS at NYU


Flanagan, C. and Levine, P. 2010. “Civic Engagement and the Transition to    Adulthood.” The Future of Children. 20(1), 159-180.

Lopez, M.H., and Marcelo, K.B. 2008. “The civic engagement of immigrant youth: New evidence from the 2006 Civic and Political Health of the Nation Survey.” Applied Development Science, 12(2), 66-73.

Rumbaut, R. G. and Komaie, G. “Immigration and Adult Transitions.” The Future of Children. 20(1), 43-66.

Stepick, A., Stepick, C.D. and Labisserie, Y. 2008. South Florida’s immigrant youth and  civic engagement: Major engagement, minor difference. Applied Development Science, 12(2), 57-65.

Suárez-Orozco, C., and Suárez-Orozco, M. and Todorova, I. 2008. Learning a New Land: Immigrant Students in American Society. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

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