Four years ago, a young man entered the 9th grade at the STEM Academy of Hollywood seemingly marked for failure.
“He was autistic, though high-functioning,” says Paul Hirsch, principal of The STEM Academy, a public school on the east side of Los Angeles. Most students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, and many speak English as a second language and contend with learning difficulties. Nearly all have grown up in close proximity to gang violence. This rising 9th grader—who Hirsh preferred not to name to respect the student’s privacy—looked like he fit the bill all too well.