"He was a hardworking student. You know, he was very eager to learn, he participates in class all the time, he's got an infectious attitude," said Carrie James, Ryan's humanities teacher. "He was probably the student that was impacted the most, and yet he has the strongest will to be here every day."
P.S. 13 lent Ryan and his classmates books and supplies and turned its auditorium stage into a classroom. They eat in shifts in the cafeteria. There are counselors to deal with trauma and a curriculum for creating stability after Sandy.
Ryan's school won't be reopen this year. His parents have no idea when, or if, their house will be livable, either.
At the end of each day, Ryan rides a bus to their battered home in Broad Channel. The streets where he used to play ball with his buddies are lined with construction debris. His father is tearing apart what remains of the house, hoping to stem the encroaching mold, waiting on the insurance company or Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide money for a professional contractor.
All the children are helping. Even Carly, the youngest, watches a stray cat and hands tools to her brothers. It's a race against time and a desperate attempt to rebuild their little piece of the world.
By the time Ryan starts tearing into musty drywall, he has already been up and at it for 10 hours. He has a few more to go before homework and heading back to a temporary apartment an hour away.
"I always think, like, it's tough what me and my family went through," he said. "We were still in the house and just thinking about that storm and as it's going on, the water rising quick -- it's going to leave a permanent mark."
Still, he's optimistic that life will look something like it did before, like all the days and nights before the storm swallowed everything.
"I'm learning that no matter what happens," he said, "not everything can slow you down and make you give up on everything."
Visit scholarsnyc.com/rebuild to donate to Scholars' Academy.
Poppy Harlow contributed to this report.