April Leong

Founder and principal of Coney Island's Liberation Diploma Plus High School

April Leong is the award-winning founder and principal of Coney Island's Liberation Diploma Plus High School. The small alternative high school on West 19th Street serves 200 transfer students, many of whom describe it as their home or family. They call Leong "Ma" because of her devotion, which extends to feeding hungry students and paying for their MetroCards and college applications with donations or out of her own pocket. Leong says that her own experience as a teen mom and the daughter of a teen mom inspired her to found the school for teens who have been left behind by the school system. Leong has received the Daily News Hometown Hero Award (2013), the Sloan Public Service Award (2014) and the New York State Senate's Women of Distinction Award (2016). Liberation High School is currently going into its tenth academic year.