In NYC, one of the most socioeconomically diverse cities in the world, I walked into the life of two high school students, exploring their stories in one of the many low-income households in Brooklyn:

Afifa Tanisa is a rising sophomore at Brooklyn Technical High School and one of many siblings in her household.

When asked about her experience as a low-income student, Afifa said, “I have everything I need, so I’m not really conscious of that label. But when I compare myself to other more well-off students, that’s when I realize that I don’t really have everything.”

Afifa noted that her parents work very hard to sustain the family and provide them with necessary resources, so in many respects, she feels satisfied materially.

Another young student who I’ll refer to as “R,” is a rising senior in a NYC public high school. She says she feels “self-conscious and confused.” As she embarks on her college journey, she often feels helpless. And for R who attends a school with students who are predominantly low-income, this sentiment is echoed amongst her classmates.

Students at under-resourced schools are usually on their own when it comes to seeking out necessary financial resources or opportunities. R, for example, has taken it upon herself to seek out the assistance of Options, a college preparatory program.

Afifa, on the other hand, attends a socioeconomically diverse school. “There’s many diverse thoughts, faces, and opinions.” She attributed Brooklyn Tech’s diversity to her growth, but in many ways, she also feels like students, including herself, tend to stick to groups similar to them. “I can find new connections with different students, but I need to step out of my comfort zone first,” she said. This insecurity is commonplace amongst low-income students.

Both R and Afifa share the goal of becoming a woman in STEM. It is a mission that inspires and empowers them.

“I’m not going to lie, I do care about the salary,” said R, about why she chose a career path in STEM. “But mostly, I want to pursue something I love. For us, that’s much more difficult.”

Afifa agreed, noting the subtle conflict between “chasing your dreams” and the pressure to support your family, which often plays a huge role in deciding a low-income student’s career aspiration.

“For a wealthy student, they can just do whatever they like, but for me, I need to consider much more,” Afifa said.

As Afifa continues on her high school career and R begins to embark on her college applications, both women make it clear that their socioeconomic standing will not hinder their dreams.


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Helen Chen, Jr. Editor

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