On October 27th, Yonkers Partners in Education (YPIE) hosted an inspirational dialogue among Yonkers high school and college students sharing their honest perspectives on living life in a pandemic, education and equity, and what makes them hopeful for the future.
“This year, we wanted to seize the opportunity to put our students' stories and voices out front and center,” said Sam Wallis, YPIE Executive Director. “They are inheriting the challenges we face. The fact that we're all here tonight sends a powerful message to students that we want to hear what they have to say, and that we're looking to them for guidance and leadership in a year like this.”
David Westin, YPIE Board Chair and Bloomberg TV Anchor moderated this discussion with Charlyn Brea, YPIE Board Member (and Alum), and Bilingual Speech-Language Pathologist
at Montefiore Medical Center.
The student panelists included YPIE 12th grade students Ashley Acosta and Darius Fernandez and YPIE college students Olubori Akinkuolie-Ibidapo and Jose Nunez. It was an insightful and emotional discussion covering the students’ thoughts on the pandemic, racial injustice, the election, and their college journey.
Many of the students spoke about the personal impact of COVID and having family members who have been essential healthcare workers during this time. Darius, a 12th grader at Saunders Technical and Trades High School, spoke about his mom who is a nurse.
“It was definitely a big change. When she came home, we couldn’t hug her. We couldn’t even be close to her. She ended up getting COVID and that really impacted our family in a drastic way. Thankfully she got better and everybody in our home got better.”
Darius, who also contracted the virus, reflects “It definitely taught me to have gratitude for the little things that I have in life because you don't know when those things can disappear.”
Ashley, a 12th-grade student at Yonkers High School, spoke about the impact of the pandemic on her college decisions. “As a first-generation student...I'm really thinking about the future, will I be able to pay for my college tuition? With the pandemic, many people have lost their jobs, their homes, and are looking for ways to find food every day.”
The pandemic has also dramatically changed life on the college campus. Olubori, attending Macaulay Honors at Lehman College, said “I was so excited to meet new people and have a new beginning staying on campus, but due to the pandemic, that was taken away from us. We now have to find a new learning environment, a new way of interacting with people, and making connections.”
Students also commented on the election and the impact this will have on their generation. “We want a President who has an interest in education and the well-being of people...who can bring justice when necessary and can make our voices heard because we are the future of tomorrow," stated Olubori.
Jose added, “When speaking with my friends, one of the main topics that comes up is climate change because it's something that is going to impact us and future generations.”
Panelists spoke about the recent protests and racial injustices. “Racism has always been in our country,” said Darius, “I do have a lot of hope that our generation will really change things and will continue to be an advocate for change.”
It was especially meaningful to see the admiration our panelists had for one another. Jose concluded his remarks, “Hearing all of you, it makes me feel more hopeful for our future generation to see how far we are going to go to create change and to be the necessary change that we all hope for.”
YPIE thanks the generous sponsors of this event, including Regeneron, Cross County Center, Yonkers Contracting Company, Sound Associates, Domino Sugar, Smith Buss & Jacobs, Dellwood Studio, and Westchester Bank.
Hear the event recording at this link.