Jim Saint Germain’s family moved to New York City from Haiti in 2000. They left with the hope of having a better life than the one they left behind, but for 10-year-old Jim, the adjustment was difficult.
His family moved into a small Brooklyn apartment where the quarters were so tight that Jim was forced to sleep in a closet, and at one point, 15 people were living in the home at once. By the time he was in eighth grade, Jim’s behavior had worsened and he was struggling in school. He was frequently in fights and his teachers began singling him out as a troublemaker.
Around that time, Carlos Walton, then the dean of Jim’s middle school, stepped in.
Carlos was known as an educator with the rare ability to connect with harder-to-reach kids. He had grown up in a tough Brooklyn neighborhood and used straight talk, a firm handshake, and big hugs to reach students.
Carlos saw himself in Jim and when Jim got kicked out of his apartment, Carlos took him into his own home to help give him time to figure things out. And while their relationship has had its moments, Jim is currently studying for his master’s degree at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and this past weekend he served as a groomsman at Carlos’ wedding.
Jim (above right) and Carlos (above left) came to StoryCorps to remember some of the pivotal moments in their relationship.
Originally aired July 22, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.