We met Candis Tolliver at the Wyandanch Memorial High School community organization meeting Monday.
Tolliver, a graduate of the high school, works for New York Civil Liberties Union, based in Manhattan.
She is helping its Suffolk County branch become acquainted with the Wyandanch community. She moved to Queens four years ago, but before that lived in Wyandanch from fifth grade.
How are you connected to the community?
We have a Suffolk County chapter, and because they know I grew up in Wyandanch they wanted to bring me in. And I still have a lot of family here.
Family aside, what is it about this community that keeps you connected?
I love it. I love the people here. This community has made me who I am. The teachers in this school have guided me -- I'm going to visit one teacher in particular right after this. I played sports here, too, so I'm really connected to the high school basketball team, I'm always finding out if we're winning, what's going on.
The people here have good hearts and they really care about your success. People care about you getting into college, and I don't know if I would have gotten that elsewhere.
What challenges does this community face?
The economic hardships that have affected the entire country have definitely affected people in Wyandanch. You have a lot of blue-collar workers that are working two, three jobs and they don't necessarily have the extra time to give their kids the kind of support they need. That's a big problem. So I think the community -- and also the schools, because the school is one of the lowest paying schools on Long Island -- need more resources for economic development to be headed in a better direction.
How would you define the character of the community?
I think people here are feisty. We're fighters, the Wyandanch Warriors, that's our team name. They fight for a better life -- for themselves and their families, regardless of what's going on in the outside world. There's a spirit here that keeps people fighting.
We met Tolliver, who works for New York Civil Liberties Union, at the Wyandanch Memorial High School community organization meeting. (Feb. 13, 2012) Photo by: Erin Geismar