What A Time To Be From Elmont

What a Time to Be From Elmont

By Sophia Sunshine Vilceus

It has truly been a remarkable week, month, and year to be from Elmont. But what does this all mean in context?

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Elmont Memorial High School valedictorian, Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna, has achieved the rare feat of being accepted into all eight Ivy League schools. Augusta is the second Elmont senior in as many years to go perfect, after Harold Ekeh swept the Ivies back in 2015, before enrolling at Yale University. (Photo credit: EMHS/SCHSD)

As an Elmont native who has lived out of New York State for nearly five years, it is something quite special to scroll through my social media timelines and news platforms and see Elmont literally making headlines.

Sometimes those stories leave my heart in knots, as I become privy to unfortunate news like the young people we’ve lost through automobile accidents on the very streets that I’d walked as a teenager.

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Elmont Memorial High School 7th grader, Gabrielle Christina Johnson was fatally struck by a car on the morning of February 1, 2016, while crossing the street with her twin sister, Courtney. This tragedy is the latest to grip the Elmont community in recent months. (Photo courtesy of Family)

Yet, other stories leave me with an undeniable and unexplainable pride — like when I see our young Brown men giving back in a palpable way through The GiveBack Challenge, a young sister standing up against Cyber-Bullying, or our Augusta being accepted into all 8 Ivy Leagues.

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Daniel Alexis, 22, of Elmont, starts #TheGiveBackChallenge, encouraging others to perform acts of kindness and love on their birthday. (Directed by Elmont native, Shanel C. Sponsored by Elmont-based apparel brand, Hard Work Clothing.) (Image Courtesy of YouTube/Vimeo.)

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Elmont Class of 2011 graduate, Stacy Pierre-Louis, hopes to inspire other young women with her fight against cyber-bullying.

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Greg Calvaire is an Elmont Memorial Class of 2007 graduate and entrepreneur. “My career goals are to further cement myself as an entrepreneur and creating several businesses amongst the music, sports and entertainment fields,” Greg told us in a 2015 interview.

 

I see faces that I am privileged to know, like Gregory Calvaire, becoming CEO of a vision he birthed, and old friend’s like, Denzel White, singing alongside his “shero” and legendary icon, Patti Labelle.

I mean, the list of amazing things flowing out of Elmont is extensive. Essence, Ebony, USA Today, People, CNN, Business Insider – to name a very select few – now all know of the excellence that comes out of Elmont! It has truly been a week, month, and year to be from Elmont. But what does this all mean in context?

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Elmont Spartans’ mascot and Class of 2016 homecoming king, Joseph Olawoye, fires up the crowd at Elmont Memorial High School’s Championship Pep Rally in March of 2016. (Photo by Elmont Memorial High School)

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Back in April 2015, Harold Ekeh, then, a 17 year-old senior at Elmont Memorial Memorial High school, earned acceptance into all 8 Ivy League Schools and MIT. Harold ultimately decided to enroll at Yale University where he is currently a freshman. (Photo Courtesy of Newsday.)

Looking at Elmont and all its glory from a distance, I can’t help but feel absolutely privileged to be from such a magical space.

As I get older and truly understand the significance of a tight-knit community, I come a deeper understanding of what we have/had in Elmont — educators that deeply care about us, a safe environment to enjoy, a place to foster lifelong relationships.

 

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Elmont graduate and best-selling author, Sophia Sunshine Vilceus (far left), is all smiles with her lifelong friends from Elmont Memorial High School at “Meet the Author: A Conversation with Sophia” back on February 27th, 2016. (Photo by Patrick Labossier)

 

Elmont is the quintessential community — it’s a place of struggle and growth — adversity and overcoming.

 

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Friends and family of Elmont native, Katiana Fongsam, gather around for a photo as they rally around the 26-year-old Elmont native in support of her battle with cancer. Katiana’s supporters raised nearly $1,000 at an Applebee’s fundraiser to help her family cover healthcare and treatment costs. (Photo by Friends & Family of Katiana)

 

But even when I think of all these great things that Elmont was and still is, I am also forced to remember overhearing conversations that my parents and loved ones had amongst one another before I was to enter the 7th grade.

Was I to go to a private school? Sewanhaka? Or Elmont?

If I may be honest, Elmont for my immigrant parents (and for many parents), had this gloomy stigma attached to it. What exactly was that stigma? Why did that stigma exist? Still, I am not quite sure. But I am sure that it did in fact exist.

Though Elmont has always been known to birth great people and things, Elmont as a school and community has had to fight against the ‘Underdog Narrative’ for so many years. I’ve come to realize that when there is a community that looks like us, looks like Elmont — people, even our people, will immediately attach stigmas and preconceived notions to it.

I’m so glad that Elmont is a community that dismantles those very stigmas — rather than perpetuate them.

Is Elmont a perfect place? Of course not. Nowhere is. We have all heard and experienced tragic stories of unfortunate deaths, robberies, accidents and the like.

Did every single educator believe in each and every one of us? No, but that’s okay. But I am so glad that we continue to excel in the face of challenges.

I am so glad that we do not let the negative stories define us as a community.  I am grateful that we continue to celebrate our Hometown (S)heroes: Academics, Authors, Dreamers, Community Change Agents.

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Michaëlle Solages is an Elmont resident and New York State Assemblymember. “Elmont is Long Island’s hidden gem,” said Solages in our 2015 interview.

 

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Elmont Spartans’ mascot and cheer squad displayed true team spirit all year long, as the 2015-16 Varsity Basketball team made school history by winning Long Island, Nassau County, and New York State Championships. (Photo credit: Newsday)

 

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Elmont’s Victor Olawoye, right, starts the team on a fast break during the Class A final at the 2016 NYSPHSAA Boys Basketball Championships held at the Glens Falls Civic Center in Glens Falls, N.Y. on Sunday, March 13, 2016. Elmont would go on to win the game and their 1st ever NYSPHSAA Championship by a score of 57-43. (Photo credit: Newsday)

Only an Elmont person can know how exciting it feels to root for your home team at a basketball or football championship game.

Only an Elmont person knows to expect to run into their entire graduating class at Western Beef or Walgreens on any given day. We have a connection and an understanding of what we have here at home.

Like me, only an Elmont person can understand what it is like to have an  immigrant mother take public transportation daily to work — work that didn’t always dignify who she was, so that we could become everything we dared to say we would.

I, like so many of you, am grateful for parents and family who enrolled us at Elmont Memorial and moved us into the Elmont neighborhood, in spite of the stereotypes and apprehensions.

What a time to be from Elmont.

#WeAreElmont

#HigherHeights

#StraightOuttaElmont

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