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The Power of Education

I first met Hakim Constantine in Sakura Park near Columbia University in Manhattan. He was a gardener for the Riverside Park Conservancy; I was a volunteer. Once a week, until Hurricane Sandy hit and the cherry trees toppled closing the park for months, we raked and weeded and talked. It was always just the two of us so we talked a lot. Hakim had just lost his grandfather and his college education had been interrupted. I was struggling with some life changes also. Our age difference evaporated with the fresh air and physical work; we mentored and supported each other, sharing family stories, and philosophical musings. I encouraged Hakim to get back to school to finish his degree. His dream was to mentor young people, perhaps become a teacher or a counsellor. Soon after we parted ways, he started Empire State College. He had a lot of credits and I knew it wouldn’t take him long to get his degree. He was already smart, but with each course, each book he read, every paper he wrote, he became smarter and smarter. His mind clicked over so rapidly that before very long, while he was studying and working full time at Prospect Park, he had started Simeon’s House. Still young, he has arrived at his life’s work.

I cannot tell you, dear reader, how proud I am of Hakim. He was profiled in The Amsterdam News this week, my pride amplified. The trajectory of Hakim’s education and achievement is a reminder of what we all are working for: public, fully-funded education for our children, no matter background or economic circumstances, and the end to white flight into private schools, charter schools and elite city schools—Hunter, Stuyvesant, Bronx Science—that, still, after all these years— discriminate against our underprivileged children. The educational system may still be at Ground Zero, utterly misguided in its test-based curriculum, but men and women like Hakim press on despite their challenges and compromised opportunities. That gives me hope.


http://amsterdamnews.com/news/2017/mar/16/hakim-constantine-working-toward-better-future/?page=2

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