On a beautiful Thursday afternoon, I rolled into the parking lot of Mount Sinai High School, just a week after graduation. The red-bricked entrance beckoned me inside, and memories unbidden jumped to the forefront of my mind as I swept past the hallways that I had once sauntered through as a student 4 years ago. I made my way to my old AP teacher's class, and introduced myself to a group of 15-year-olds with a sheepish grin, excitement prevalent in my demeanor:
"Hey guys! My name's Adeel, and I just graduated from Stony Brook University with a BS in Biology and a Minor in Business Management, and I'll be talking to you guys today about college."
I moved to Mount Sinai during the summer before high school, and it was with a heavy heart that I left all of my friends at Herricks (I had previously lived in Manhasset Hills) to move on to something new. I was the new kid in a school district where everyone had gone to school together since at least middle school, and for the first week of freshman year, I struggled to make new friends. Only after considerable effort did I manage to make a dent and start to develop a sense of belonging and accept Mount Sinai as my new home. The four years I spent in high school as a Mustang defined my demeanor and helped me grow into the adult I am today. The teachers that guided me through my turbulent teenage years are still some of my closest mentors, and I don't know where I would have ended up without them through my difficult times.
When I look at the faces of the students sitting in desks that I once sat in my old teacher's class, I see a reflection of who I once was, excited to be graduating from high school but anxious for the future, so full of potential and spirit that it swells my heart with pride that these kids have such bright futures, and the fact that I get the privilege to speak to them about my own experiences makes me feel so old and yet so lucky that maybe, just maybe, my words might guide the next doctor or lawyer or CEO to their success.
I tell these bright souls of my own failures too, of my mistakes and tough times, to remind them that they can and they will get through the difficulties that lie ahead, that life itself is an everlasting continuation of mistakes that help you grow as you get older and teach you in ways you wouldn't have thought possible. I can only hope that my story helps to inspire them to achieve as much as they possibly can, to surpass everything that I have ever done and reach for the stars that I know they are destined for.
Many of my colleagues ask me why I continue to go back and visit my old high school after I've graduated; they feel that it's a part of their past they never want to revisit. For me, my high school years were a major cornerstone of my journey throughout life, and I feel that every year it's important for me to remind myself of my roots and how much I've grown. It's an honor for me to have been a Mount Sinai Mustang—after all, this town is my home sweet home.