The other side of the tracks

Sufyan Hameed is a student at Baruch College who graduated Elmont High School in 2018. At the age of 17 he was homeless sleeping in his car wondering what his next move was. After that, he finished high school in the top third of his class and started his own clothing company.

I’m happy to say I’ve finally left the education system on Long Island.

There’s definitely a connection between Long Island and its fictitious partner Two Mills in the book Maniac Magee. Maniac Magee is a novel written by American author Jerry Spinelli that explores themes of racism and homelessness, telling the story of an orphan boy looking for a home in the fictional Pennsylvania town of Two Mills.

Did you ever think that two towns could be separated by a simple set of train tracks? This is clearly the case with Garden City and Hempstead that I learned while attending Elmont Memorial High School.

I was heading to Roosevelt Field mall one day when my navigation decided to take me through the backroads. Then there they were — the train tracks. As I passed over them I entered a totally different world. It was as if I was in a movie suddenly surrounded by big houses with beautiful green yards and driveways. In my rearview was an opposite atmosphere and it opened my eyes.

I remember going back to school that Monday and telling my friends that Long Island is truly such a segregated place.

I was well aware that my district was also like this, it’s no surprise that my school had the highest percentage African American students compared to the other schools. I had witnessed it but it was something we joked about, but not anymore. Soon after that, I finally realized that the majority of my educators were Caucasian. It had always been like this, but why hadn’t I questioned it?

After some contemplation, I’ve realized that within the education system in which I’ve grown up in, students of color were never made to feel proud of their color. We were taught to accept being separated from our Caucasian counterparts. It felt like our school was treated differently because of our student body and all the other schools knew it, besides us.

A lot of us see Long Island as picture-perfect, and it’s sad that equality is still not present across the entire region. The Island has to change, the world around us is changing, so there’s no reason for us to not improve the communities in which we live. We need to embarce a more diverse environment for ourselves and future generations.