When I started working in this community in 2002, my goal was not to change anyone. It was to become an integral part of the fabric of Inwood and Washington Heights. I didn’t know how, but I wanted to belong to this community.
Why did I come here? Because my sister has lived and worked in this neighborhood since 1983 and she was doing cool youth work with teens. Why wouldn’t I come? The community was vibrant, the people were kind, and it sure beat the alternative—suburbia. Living in suburbia after college was literally my worst. Having spent part or all of my summers in Inwood since I was twelve years old, I knew that I wanted to live here one day. Yeah, I was the only white girl at the 207 train stop, but that was ok with me. I started teaching in Inwood in the fall of 2002 after permanently moving here that summer. I couldn’t believe I was getting paid to do work with kids. It was too good to be true. Not only that, I got to eat chicken, rice and beans every day! The culture was just as important as the work. Families greeted me with open arms, even inviting me to dinner in their homes. They cooked for me, tried to improve my Spanish (I had taken four years in preparation for moving, but still can’t speak it fluently), explained novelas to me, and even invited me to DR for summer vacations! Quickly most of my friends were Dominican and I eventually married a loving Dominican man (we’re about to have our second child). I love La Marina and Mama Sushi and kids blasting music on bikes. I love it all! My kids will grow up here, being a true part of it all.
In 2007, I realized that I wanted to do more to support the young people in our community. I had heard about charter schools and wasn’t sure what it was all about, but I knew that parents needed more choices. I studied charters and decided that this could be an answer to providing parents a choice so the first thing I did was make sure that the community wanted this. And they did! In the summer of 2010, Inwood Academy was birthed by a group of Inwood and WaHi community members and we will be serving close to 800 students this fall.
This is not an advertisement for charter schools. It’s just a different perspective. I wanted to write this to say that we don’t all have the same opinions as the author of an op-ed (which has been edited) written last summer. There are many of us who have come, made Inwood our home and love everything about it. When I read this op-ed I was shocked by its audacity, and I’m happy to see so many speak out against the anger it housed, such as the article in the Uptown Collective
I couldn’t believe the response the author, had to regular life in Inwood and the presumptions made about our precious young people. My students face this kind of insidiousness all the time from people who have the same opinion as this author. To see it written in black and white as if this type of response to their typical adolescent behavior made her response to the boy okay, made my blood boil.
Life is a series of choices. No place is perfect, but when you choose to move to a new community, you have to embrace it and love it for all it is – the noise, the styles, the customs, and most of all the people.