Wyandanch Memorial High School
Ward was born and raised in Wyandanch and attended Monmouth University on a full basketball scholarship. She came back to the school district as a special education teacher in 2000, but took the first guidance counselor position that opened up. She said her true passion is helping students get into college.
What made you come back to Wyandanch after college?
When I was pursuing my degree to be a guidance counselor, one of my interns was helping a group of special needs students get into college. I found that I really enjoyed it. When you see what can be done when you have a lot of resources -- because there were a lot of resources at Monmouth College -- you want that for the kids from your own community. There’s nothing like going back and helping people succeed.
What was it like for you to come back?
It wasn’t actually my plan to come back and I was nervous. I was a big basketball player here, so when I came back everyone wanted me to be focused on that. They wanted me to be a coach. My focus was educational and getting kids into college -- that’s my passion.
What are the biggest challenges that face the Wyandanch community?
We don’t have as many homeowners as we did when I was growing up. We have a lot of transitional people, Section 8 housing, rental housing. There are not a lot of business owners in the community, either. There used to be, but those businesses have been eradicated. We don’t have enough people investing or bringing resources in.
What are the strengths?
No matter what transition takes place, we’re still a very family-oriented community. We still have Wyandanch Day, we have events that go on in the library and the school that bring people together. We’re still very family oriented.
How would you define the character of the community?
Very persevering. Our mascot is the Indian Warrior and that defines us. We can get slammed in the public media and the things that go on in the streets can define us, but we focus on the positive. We have students going to college on scholarships, we have successful students. You have to really come in and walk the halls and meet the students to see that. We have a lot of people who care.