We Started Here: Paul

School is wonderful. Higher education is even better. Everyone can and ought to have a chance at a decent school where they can work hard, earn good grades and soar beyond his or her potential. Elmont Memorial High School is indeed such a place. Home to some of the best and brightest, Elmont upholds a standard of excellence, yet is not always recognized as doing such.

In a recent Huffington Post article, a reporter met with seniors who had earned high marks at Elmont Memorial High School and was shocked to learn that there are some people outside of Elmont Memorial who question the merit of these seniors’ achievements, and even doubt whether the students are truly capable. These seniors as well as 74% of the student body at Elmont share something in common — they are Black.

Our We Started Here original series continues on with a young leader who is a true testament to “Elmont’s Finest” — Paul — who graduated from EMHS in 2006. Paul ran track, played trumpet in the marching band and excelled academically. No longer still in Elmont, Paul briefly reflects on his transition, the work he is doing now and shares his views on life for students after high school.

Without further ado, here is our interview:

Paul John 4 Elmont Excel _WeStartedHere

What do you do these days?

I do mayoral outreach for Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a program of Everytown for Gun Safety. I’m also the community service chairperson for the New York City Chapter of the Penn State African Alumni Organization and I’m on the social media committee for Justice League NYC.

How is life after Elmont – Are you better off now where you are?

When it comes to independence, I’m definitely better off no longer living with my parents. When it comes to finances? Not so much.

What factored into your decision to attend Elmont (EMHS)? Who made that choice?

Elmont was the closest high school to my house and I lived in the district. My parents made that choice.

Paul John 3 - Elmont XL - WeStartedHere

Describe your course work at EMHS. Did it prepare you in any way for the work you do now professionally?

To be honest, I think more of what I learned in elementary school and in college prepared me for what I do professionally. I learned how to read, write and do math in elementary school. I learned standards of professionalism, how to write detailed reports and gather/utilize statistics, how social issues affect us, and that I can be a part of the solution in some way in college.

Your fondest memory of being a student: 

Becoming captain of the track team – this helped me realize that I have leadership potential and has motivated me to lead when and where I can.

A high number of students graduate EMHS. However, much fewer students enroll in a four-year college or complete their undergraduate degree. What do you think is the reason for such a disparity? 

There are so many reasons for this, but I’ll try to name a few. Some students aren’t adequately prepared for the college application process. Others may have the grades to graduate from high school but may not have the grades to get into college. Some students don’t realize how much more work goes into college than goes into high school (depending on the college.) Going away to college presents a whole host of distractions from schoolwork for many students. Other students realize college isn’t for them and would rather join the workforce sooner than later and/or learn in an alternative environment.

If you had a time machine and could go back and speak to your younger self in high school – what would you say? 

“Start Track and Field a year earlier. You’ll enjoy it and you may leave college a faster runner.” (I’d say so much more to my younger self on college!)

Paul John 2 - Elmont XL - WeStartedHere

The best advice you’ve ever gotten: 

“Deciding to change paths isn’t always quitting. As long as you have another plan, it’s simply moving on. You only have but so much time to waste.”

Many thanks to this fierce advocate for granting us an interview. Keep your eyes peeled for Paul – another example of Elmont’s finest – as he stands at arms with the underserved and effects meaningful social reform!

For more information about Justice League NYC and Everytown for Gun Safety, click the highlighted links.

#HigherHeights

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