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Wyandanch people: Shelly Williams

Shelly Williams has lived in Wyandanch since she

Shelly Williams has lived in Wyandanch since she was a child. She works as a clerk typist at Wyandanch Memorial High School. (Feb. 16, 2012) Credit: Erin Geismar

Throughout this week's Town Focus series in Wyandanch, we are profiling people we meet, from community leaders to residents we bump into around town.

Shelly Williams
Age: 43
Occupation: senior clerk typist at Wyandanch Memorial High School

Williams’ family moved to Wyandanch when she was 6 years old, and except for a few years living in Central Islip while she attended college, she’s been here ever since.

Why did you decide to stay in Wyandanch as an adult?
My siblings have all moved away, but my child is here in school and my mother is here. This is what I know. I’ve never had a desire to leave, just to see it improved.

What was Wyandanch like when you were growing up?
We had the kind of neighborhood where it took a village to raise a child – before that phrase was fashionable. If I was doing something wrong, I was checked by my neighbors. We had a community within a community on our block. Even at 11, 12 years old we would go to the park by ourselves. There was always someone there looking out for you. Overall, it was just a good childhood. My mom will say, ‘You don’t know how hard it was,’ and we didn’t. They didn’t let us know how hard it was. We didn’t know we were poor. We didn’t know the best of everything, but we certainly didn’t know the worst.

When did things start to change?
1986. That was the year I graduated high school, and up until that year, things were the same. We would hang out, we would go to the village and congregate. I remember when I came back after being at school, I was like, ‘What happened to this place?’

As the community heads into this revitalization plan, what do you think it’s important to focus on?
This community had stuff once upon a time. We had a supermarket, two supermarkets, actually. We had a butcher, Bonnie’s Bakery, Church’s Chicken. We had our own stuff. But it got to the point that people started stealing, things started to change, and it was no longer profitable to keep a business here. But it’s not the people that have lived here. It’s a new population. The people that have been here a long time can’t wait for the revitalization because it’s going to shake a lot of stuff off the tree. I think we also have to concentrate on disbanding some of this criminal activity. We need more after-school programs, after-school activities, PAL programs. We have a community center, and there are no programs there.

You had a great childhood, but what is it about Wyandanch that you love now?
It’s hard to put it into words. People tease me all the time, ‘Oh, you’re just a Wyandanch-head. You’re never leaving.’ I don’t want to leave. I could probably live in a neighboring community, but I wouldn’t be as comfortable. I have friends here, good friends, people I’ve known since I was 6 years old. For me, when it comes down to it, if I’m leaving Wyandanch, I’m leaving the state.

Do you see that kind of loyalty to the community now?
It’s a little bit different from our generation. The kids that come up through the reins today, they don’t have the same sense of pride from when Wyandanch was what it was. Even our sports teams, we used to be a community that was all about sports. Wherever we went, we made noise. It’s not like that anymore.


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