I always wanted to be a teacher, from the age of five. I was born in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, and I started out teaching everyone else their prayers for first communion. We moved to Brookyn, New York, and when our family became too large for the projects, we got a house in East New York. Then the city government decided to build the Charrett Education Complex in our neighborhood, and we were forced to move. They touted it as the greatest educational thing that would happen in East New York, but the complex never came about.
We were totally disillusioned, displaced, uprooted, and scattered to the five boroughs. Ours had been a beautiful neighborhood, you could walk up the street and buy sliced bread on Blake Avenue; it was just a wonderful community. And after that it was destroyed, left just like a wasteland. I think I am where I am now because of that incident. The school was not built there, but I ended up bringing the school to the neighborhood anyway.
I became an activist soon after Father Hinch, of East Brooklyn Congregations (EBC), a neighborhood citizens organization, had a meeting with me. In that first meeting, we found out where my anger was: people say they'll do things in the neighborhood and they never do them. From there I started working with EBC, where we always say, "People are the most important product."
The first project we did was to go into the local supermarkets and take stock of the quality of the food -- the products, and how people were being treated. Many of the inner city neighborhoods were poorly served by the supermarkets in quality and quantity of food and service. Ten of us went into each store with clipboards, just like inspectors, and checked products and service. We told the owners that we'd be back, and things started getting better because until then we were just getting leftovers from other stores. Then we started thinking about creating a new school.
Two years ago, a group of people -- teachers, parents, EBC members, and administrators -- sat around a table and just dreamed. We sat there night after night and week after week. We drew a vision of a new school and put it onto a board. Now everything is coming off that board and becoming reality, it's so exciting.
Last February we got the lease for the new East New York school. I was appointed Project Director in July, and had two months to get the school ready. And we were pushing those construction workers to get it done. The school is in an old sewing warehouse, the entire first floor. When it opened on September 20th everyone came in the door just smiling at the brand new