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School was a happy place for Adriana Del Valle — at the elementary level.

During her middle-school years, though, she eventually stopped going to school, started hanging out with the “wrong crowd” and was “sent away.” She was in the foster care system and constantly changing schools. The inconsistency of her educational experiences eventually caught up to her.

Del Valle started high school in a program that allowed her to take classes online. But it wasn’t enough. She wanted that regular high-school experience with teachers and classmates, and her search led her to The James Baldwin School, a transfer high school in Manhattan. Transfer schools are specifically designed for students who are behind on credits.

Adriana Del Valle. Photo courtesy of Miseducation podcast.

I first met Del Valle at Baldwin, where she introduced herself as “bacon on a stove.” I wanted to know more about her story, her side job as a hairstylist after school, her favorite shows and her career plans as I interviewed her for the Miseducation podcast.

I learned that Del Valle became involved in the restorative-justice practices that Baldwin offers, and the open-minded culture at the school helped her become a role model to others. She turned her life around from almost dropping out of high school to being a leader, the “go-to” person at James Baldwin. The school became like her home. School was a happy place again.

To learn more about restorative justice, I attended a workshop during the summer with several students from James Baldwin and City-As-School High School. The conversations and community spirit really moved me. All schools should provide restorative justice, especially those with students who have experienced pain from institutional systems, such as the educational and political systems.

I admire Del Valle’s strength and resilience. She didn’t allow her struggles to stand in her way as she graduated from high school this past June and enrolled in a SUNY school to study criminal justice.

To hear more of Del Valle’s story and the ways that restorative justice can help students, listen to the Miseducation podcast.

This story about restorative justice in transfer schools was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for our newsletter.

Maria De Los Santos is a senior at Comprehensive Model School Project 327 in the South Bronx in New York.

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