Growing up in the Eastern European city of Gomel in Belarus, Yelena Sokolin never dreamed that she would be helping hundreds of teens live their best lives in far-off Brooklyn, New York.
Sokolin graduated from Gomel State University, and moved to the United States in 1989. Soon after arriving here, she learned English, and shortly after that, she began working at Dell, got married, and started a family. As she raised her children, Sokolin set out to change her career.
In 2001, Sokolin began working as a math teacher at the Elite Academy of Science and Technology high school in Bath Beach. In 2010 she was named principal of the school, a position she holds to this day.
Since becoming principal, Sokolin has turned the academy around in many ways. Academically, she has raised standards and implemented new and innovative programs. Culturally, she raised the bar to change the climate of the school to focus on achievement and engagement. Today the school has a 100 percent college acceptance rate, a record of which she is particularly proud.
Sokolin also readily proclaims that “since I became principal, I made sure that the school is an entirely a safe environment and well as completely drug-free.” She explains that many of her students come from difficult backgrounds and need extra help and encouragement to become their best selves.
“I have committed myself to helping the families of troubled students,” she says. “Our school has helped many turn their lives around and get a great education, where many other schools and educators have just given up.”
The Woman of Distinction and her colleagues don’t just teach the basics; they also encourage students to excel and pursue their dreams, and counsel them to stay away from drugs and follow the right path.
“Here at EAST, we’re all about sobriety and safety awareness. We believe that the first and best solution towards substance abuse is prevention, protecting our children before a mishap occurs. That’s why we continuously host our drug awareness events on campus along with the BeProud Foundation,” Sokolin said. Such events are attended by community members, parents and students and feature lectures by representatives from the NYPD, “who deliver informative and inspiring words about the importance of drug awareness, prevention, and education,” she said.
Raisa Chernina, a longtime neighborhood activist, says she met Sokolin years ago when the teacher heard about neighborhood seminars that rallied the community to stand up against drugs, and wanted to bring those seminars into her school.
“We have the biggest [youth drug abuse] problem in our community. And people like Yelena are ready to walk extra miles to save at least one child. I dream of more people like Yelena,” Chernina said. In addition to her rewarding career as an educator, Sokolin takes pride in her family and cherishes their support.
“I have a great family and two children, and couldn’t do it without them,” she said. “My husband has been very supportive of my tireless commitment to mentoring the future generation.”
Company: Elite Academy of Science and Technology.
Claim To Fame: Principal of a drug-free high school in Brooklyn with a 100 percent college acceptance rate.
Favorite Brooklyn Place: Bay Parkway boardwalk.
Woman I Admire: My mother.
Motto or Life Saying: Happiness is not a destination — it is a way of life.
©2017 Community News Group