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Elmont made me the person I am today.

I love being able to call Elmont my hometown. I had always appreciated my upbringing, but it wasn’t until I got to college and compared my experiences to those of my peers that I realized how fortunate I actually was to be able to call Elmont home.

Growing up in the town of Elmont, playing sports for the town of Elmont and going to outstanding public schools within the town of Elmont taught me strength and determination, and instilled with me a passion for education and a strength of character that I proudly carry through life.

I am who I am because of Elmont, New York.

Please enjoy my interview with the Elmont Excelsior!

What do you do these days?

These days, I find myself wearing a lot of hats. I work for two amazing non-profit organizations. I am the Project Manager of The Shirley Chisholm Project for Brooklyn Women’s Activism and Public Relations Coordinator for BelTifi, Inc., a Haitian women’s organization aimed at empowering young women (and men) within the Haitian American community. I am also a freelance journalist/blogger. I would love to add that I work out regularly, but that would be a lie.

What has been your proudest moment to date?

My proudest moment to date was that when I became a member of the best sorority in the world, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. on April 25, 2010.

Leslie - Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc - We Started Here - The Elmont Excelsior

What are your career goals?

I’m not 100% certain where exactly I would like to be in 10 years, but I do know that I would love a career in the non-profit sector. It is definitely my passion. Right now, I’m gaining the experience I need to figure out the path I would like to take to get there.

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

I took Advanced and Advanced Placement classes at EMHS. The coursework was standard and at times challenging. From it, I gained valuable comprehensive, deductive and time management skills that help me in many of my endeavors. Also, I give much praise to Ms. O’Leary and Ms. Calabrese for teaching me how to properly organize thoughts into a quality essay. I learned quickly in my first semester at college that writing skills are not as common as you would think.

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Your fondest memory of being a student:

My fondest memory of being a student was the familial atmosphere at Elmont Memorial. Of course, I loved the friendships I formed with my peers, but I will never forget the amazing relationships I had with many of my teachers, coaches and administrators. They cared about us far beyond those Ridge Road walls. Once during my senior year, [the Principal] Mr. Capozzi called me to his office to discuss my (poor) choice in a boyfriend. He didn’t want anything or anyone to get in my way. They were always there with a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. It wasn’t until I got to college that I realized how rare and special that was. Elmont was definitely a second home.

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?

College is still looked at as an option for many young people. (Ultimately, it is.) However, it is clear how vital a Bachelor’s degree, at the very least, is for success. Elmont Memorial is fantastic at helping to get students to the point of graduation and beyond, but I feel that the discrepancy in four-year enrollment comes from a lack of understanding between living in the now and living for the future.

College life is far from glamorous. If you take away the parties and fun, it is 4-6 years of stress, sleep deprivation, anxiety and empty pockets. But we need to stress to these young people the idea that it will all pay off in time.

As for those that don’t complete their degree requirements, I feel that most of the time the reason is economic. I’ve seen too many friends take breaks from school because they simply could not afford to go anymore. That’s an entirely different story. At the end of the day, a Bachelor’s degree is the new high school diploma. It is so difficult these days to find a good job with the potential for growth that does not have any degree requirements.

At Elmont, we took “Family and Consumer Science” and Technology” classes, but I think there should be more of an emphasis on planning for life after graduation as it pertains to higher education; a program that includes college tours, bringing back EMHS alumni to talk about their experiences-good, bad and ugly for starters. Students should be taught to should be taught to shoot for the moon, not settle among the stars that are safety schools. (And yes, I fully realize that metaphor isn’t scientifically sound.) While they are still in the Elmont bubble, they should be helped and guided 100%. That moment you realize you are an adult in the eyes of society and left to your own devices can be a scary one.

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

If I could go back in time and speak to my younger self, I would of course tell her to keep being awesome; keep studying, keep practicing, keep striving. I would tell her to stop being ashamed of her accomplishments. Shine bright, you earned it! Most importantly, I would tell her to be more selfish. Leslie in high school was too worried about pleasing everyone and constantly put the needs of “friends” before own to the point of exhaustion and depression. I would tell her that she is her own star player and she needs to act like it!

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The best advice you’ve ever gotten:

Don’t sweat the small stuff! Happiness isn’t a virus that infects you, it’s a choice. You must choose the path towards happiness.

Special thanks to the wonderful Leslie Anselme of The Shirley Chisholm Project and Bel Tifi, Inc.

Higher Heights

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