By Brittney Longley
Mattituck High School

AMSF14_LONGLEYMy name is Brittney Longley, I am 18-years-old, and currently a senior at Mattituck High School. Growing up in a small town, many kids will tell you that there’s absolutely nothing to do. This may be true. There are many kids who do the bare minimum, they do not care about their school or what their future holds. There are some kids that get into drugs and alcohol and have no goals. That kid could have been me; I am that kid from a small town, who grew up against the odds, but I chose not to be that kid!

I grew up in a house with alcoholics, my mother was a waitress and a bartender. I was abused both physically and emotionally. My dad was not a part of my life. I moved to Mattituck when I was seven-years-old: new school, new teachers, and new friends; life was not going to be easy.

When I was in fourth grade, I was having difficulty reading. No one at home read to me or taught me how to read. Several times during school, I was taken out of my class. I wasn’t sure why I was being pulled out of class, when the rest of my classmates were able to remain in class. Sure enough, I was being tested to determine whether or not I had a learning disability, and in fact, I did. From that time forward, I was placed in self-contained classes, and I was treated differently by both friends and teachers. I felt no one liked me because I was in special education. My former classmates thought I was mentally challenged and treated me differently. They didn’t know I just had a little trouble learning and I just needed some extra help, they didn’t know that I didn’t have a mom or dad at home to help me. No one ever knows exactly what is going on in people’s lives and often times, people just don’t care.

When I went to the high school, I was made fun of for my mother problems and how my grandmother had to take care of me. In high school, I also learned that I wasn’t the only individual with a broken family or with a learning disability. My mother was an alcoholic, not me, and I didn’t want to be defined by who she was.

I started going to support groups when I was 14 and I learned that there are other kids like me that have gone through what I have. The following year, my grandmother passed away and I needed to find a place to live since the courts ruled that my Mom was unable to take care of me. At fifteen, I was not concerned about going to the movies or hanging out with my friends, I was concerned about where I was going to live and how I was going to survive. Around that same time, I became friendly with a girl from school who I immediately connected with, and after only knowing her for a short time, her family took me in. I have been living with them ever since. I am so thankful since I was able to stay in my school, continue my education, and have a family that would love and support me.

When I was fifteen-years-old, I was asked to be part of a documentary “Children Under the Influence” which was about children who grew up in alcoholic homes. I am very proud of my role in this documentary, not only because it aired on Nickelodeon’s Nick News, and won an Emmy, but also because I was able to reach so many kids, just like me. Today, the documentary is aired in high school health classes throughout Long Island, and I have been able to share my story, and answer students’ questions. I am living proof that my mother’s problems did not define who I am as an individual, and that anything can be accomplished. I also run a support group, Alateen, which is a support group for teenagers who have parents and family members who are alcoholics. I want to make sure that kids know that they are not alone and they need to talk to someone or ask a question if there are things going on in their lives. I have expanded to speaking to other schools and communities as well at conferences. My mission is to keep speaking to all the schools on the east end of Long Island so that kids know they are not alone.

That is why I chose to pursue an education in the nursing field, so that I can give back to my community and care for people. My goal is to start my post-secondary education at Suffolk County Community College and earn my Associates Degree in Liberal Arts. After graduating from Suffolk County Community College, my goal is to further my education by transferring to SUNY Alfred. I love living on the east end of Long Island. We have great schools, amazing teachers and an unbelievable caring community that is dedicated to helping and supporting students.