Young Long Islander sees hope in region’s future

Mitchell M. Schwartz, 17, is a concerned Long Islander who loves the Island and wants what is best for it and all of its inhabitants.

The day was April 15, 2019 and I was about to take my ACT exam. I was supposed to take it at Roslyn High School, the school I attend where I know many students and teachers. When I asked my father what time we had to leave to get there, he said that so many people had signed up to take it in Roslyn and that they had to relocate some students to Hempstead High School. I admit that hearing that news made me kind of nervous, as I have heard many stories about Hempstead over the years. But I went — and my experience was amazing.

Every teacher who I interacted with in Hempstead was wonderful, energetic, passionate, and most importantly clearly loved their job. After walking through a metal detector in the lobby of the school, I was directed to go upstairs, where I was greeted by two teachers, who gave me directions to my room. My proctor for the test was, by far, one of the best that I have ever had. During the test it hit me: “Oh my goodness – segregation is still well and alive, and is as ugly as ever.” I thought of how much we often take for granted in Roslyn and thought of how places only a few miles away – like Hempstead – struggle.

I thought of how we don’t need to have metal detectors in Roslyn to avoid fights involving weapons. I thought of how the schools in Roslyn never need to worry about being taken over by the state and how Hempstead narrowly avoided a takeover a few years back. Perhaps most importantly, I realized how segregated and unequal Long Island is demographically, and how people often take a few negative aspects of communities that have a different demographic/socioeconomic makeup and blow it way out of proportions, stereotyping entire communities as dangerous, poor, and flat-out bad.

From the few hours I had spent in Hempstead, I learned so much about the community. I saw how tight-knit Hempstead is, how proud its residents are to live there, and how so many people foolishly choose to ignore all of that. It sickened me to see inequality so alive in 2019 — and so close to home, too. I thought to myself towards the end of the exam: “What can I do to help bring awareness to how unequal Long Island’s demographics are?” and remembered my love for making maps, and how great Google My Maps is for making custom maps.

Once I got home, I sat down and started making the map. The data I found proved my thoughts to be fully accurate. The same problems that plague Hempstead (poverty, low income, lower educational attainment, etc.) plague many other communities with majority non-white populations, such as Wyandanch, Brentwood, Central Islip, and New Cassel. Also like Hempstead, these communities are tight-knit, as well.

I will forever remember and cherish the incredible experience I had in Hempstead High School that day, and the amazing people I met in that community who made my experience so great.

I genuinely hope that my map (and the website I made for it) can help make people more aware of how segregated our island is, and that people will be inspired to take action to try and fix these problems once and for all, ensuring a brighter and better future for LI for generations to come. We all love our island, so let’s all work together in giving it (and all of its inhabitants) the future it deserves.