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