BROOKLYN—When McKinley Louissaint moved in with his father in Flatbush last February, a friend of his father suggested that he register at the Flatbush YMCA of Greater New York to improve his English. The advice would turn out to be beneficial for his career dreams too.

“When I started the first time in the YMCA with a teacher, her name is Danielle Gurbi, [she said], ‘You’re gonna be someone tomorrow and you're gonna learn English fast,’” Louissaint, 20, recalls, speaking in English during an interview in October. “In about two months, I could make a sentence.”

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