Amityville High School counselor Stacy Murphy didn't know what to expect when she learned last year that a new student from earthquake-devastated Haiti would be coming to the district.
She wondered how this student would adjust, having come from such tragedy. But, within a minute of meeting Jean Alouidor that March, she realized immediately that "our small high school had been given a huge gift."
In his time as a junior and senior at Amityville, Alouidor has mentored a number of younger children, including earthquake survivors from Haiti, has joined several clubs, has volunteered his time and is graduating with a 96.4 GPA and in the top 10 percent of his graduating class. He will attend Stony Brook University in the fall as a biology major with the goal of becoming a pediatrician and returning to his home country as a doctor.
"Coming here, it was a blessing, because here I got the chance to become friends, very close friends, with my teachers and my guidance counselor, Mrs. Murphy," Alouidor, 17, said. "She helped me and opened a lot of doors for me. I can see my future even better now."
After the 7.0-magnitude earthquake destroyed his home and his school, Alouidor's family felt they had no choice but to send him to live with his grandfather in Amityville.
He arrived without any transcripts and with hardly knowing anyone in his new home school.
"I had to face many challenges," said Alouidor. "I had to accommodate to a completely new environment. I had to start from scratch . . . I had to perfect my English. I had to work very hard and prove to my teachers that I was a unique student. Basically, I had to start all over."
Murphy was confident that Alouidor would adjust. She knew from the first meeting that he was driven and dedicated. In fact, educators in Amityville turned to Alouidor when they needed help with a younger student from Haiti who also arrived after the earthquake and was having a hard time adjusting at Park Avenue Elementary School.
Alouidor said Wedgy Delva, who is completing the third grade, has come such a long way, improving in school and in speaking English more and more. Separating from him will be hard, said Alouidor, who has also added four other young Haitian students to the group he mentors.
"I will come back and visit him anytime I can," Alouidor said of Wedgy. "He is doing great, better than when he came, and I am very proud of him, to see how he is today."
After graduation, Alouidor has a very busy summer, including heading to Atlanta for a forum on medicine, traveling to Massachusetts to visit his mother and siblings, and going to Los Angeles for a national NAACP poetry competition.
Murphy said she is confident Alouidor will accomplish whatever he sets his mind to.
"Jean had every opportunity to give up, lose hope and succumb to the devastation he and his family experienced," she said. "He did just the opposite, and has been an example to every student and staff member in our district of what it truly means to never give up."