Emily Pressler: Runner-up 2016 Anne MacKay Scholarship Winner
By Emily Pressler Southold High School
Long Island is a beautiful place to live, but it isn’t the easiest place to live if you aren’t economically stable. Many residents are in fact wealthy and enjoy all that Long Island has to offer, but what about those of us that aren’t well off? Living in Southold, everyone knows everyone and everyone knows your business. It was tough growing up in a low income family, it was even tougher trying to keep it a secret. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea, my family wasn’t destitute: I had a roof over my head and food to eat, it was the little extras I couldn’t always enjoy as a kid. And being a child, it wasn’t easy to understand why I couldn’t always have the newest clothes, or all the movie channels, or the Caribbean vacations.
I have lived in Southold my entire life and I have been exposed to extreme similarity. For the most part, the residents are very similar to one another and are of the same economic status. I always thought there was some expectation to be met. However, from a young age I was on the free and reduced lunch program because of my parents’ low income. To say the least, the list of kids on this program is not very long and I was too embarrassed to tell anyone. I felt that I was inferior to the other kids because my parents didn’t make as much money and I did not want to be defined by my economic status. I was so self-conscious and worried about what people would say or think about me.
I appreciate all those who have helped me in rightfully earning my education in spite of my family’s struggles. This is why I chose to become a teacher, and hopefully help students in a similar position. When we are young and impressionable, it is usually our parents and our teachers who inspire us and mold us into the adults we become. I want to teach students to dream big and overcome obstacles they might not necessarily have control over.
I was lucky in the fact that I wasn’t bullied for my family’s economic situation, but those that are my real concern. I can only image how different my life would have been if the words of crude, ignorant kids reached my ears. I was surrounded with great friends that loved me no matter what. I am proud to call those same people my friends today. For a long time, they didn’t know about my family’s struggles because it was my long kept secret. However, I realized it is nothing to be ashamed of and they supported me and treated me just the same, which is all I could have hoped for.
My childhood was not tainted in any way. I grew up with great people and in a wonderful place. My experience, however hard as it was, has made me stronger and influenced the person I have become. I consider myself a strong, confident, intelligent young woman and I can’t wait to take on the world as I pursue my dreams knowing nothing can stop me.
Although at the time I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t be like everyone else, I know now that it made me stronger. To be honest, not having a lot of money growing up has made me resourceful, responsible, and appreciative. Everything that I had I valued and that has taught me to take care of my belongings for lasting use. Also, dealing with limited clothes or devices has led me to be the creative person I am today. I relish in problem solving and finding viable uses for things. Being less fortunate has made me appreciative of all that I have and everyone who has helped me along the way. I wish that I could say my life would have been so much better had my family been richer, but no one can know that for sure, I can only appreciate what I have: a loving family, great friends and a bright future to look forward to.
As I grew older, I realized that I couldn’t cower away from my economic deficit forever. And with the help of my teachers I have been able to take advantage of money saving options to allow me to do all the things other kids do. The amount of scholarship/grant options available to kids like me confirmed that it was okay not be wealthy and that it was okay to need help. I have been able to attend field trips and take college level courses at reduced costs. And more importantly, I have realized that getting a college education is not quite as out of reach as I thought. Being the first in my family to attend college, it was scary to find out the reality of how much a college education costs. But, with all of the hard work I have done over the years I have found multiple scholarship opportunities to help with the exorbitant cost.