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Students Tell City, State, MTA: NO “FARE”

March 31, 2010

By Sharmin Hossain

For months, students and allies have been working together to fight for student metrocards. From rallies, protests, hearings, press conferences to meetings with powerful decision makers, we have fought together for the rights of the students.

As written in the Constitution, education is a right that must be provided for by the state and city. By revoking student metro cards, students will be unable to access that education. Many youth come from families that cannot afford the extra expense of metro cards that can cost over a thousand dollars annually. The state and city always speak about what positive changes were made in the education system, but if there are no metrocards what will happen to that reputation?

The Alliance for Transportation Justice consists of hundreds of youth and allies taking action to work with the city, state and MTA who plan on revoking student metro cards. The journey has been tedious; it has involved hours of planning, last minute conference calls, phone calls and lots of rallying for attention. From discussing budgets and expenses to operations and stimulus packages, our meetings are very productive.

On March 4th; MTA Chairman Jay Walder finally agreed to meet with the students. The students — who were the speakers and facilitators at the meeting – came determined to get a decision and move forward. The meeting was intense; people were sharing valid points and keeping their main goal in mind. Chairman Walder expressed his emotional connection to the issue, and how important it is to him to have free education. Through this heartfelt dialogue, he seemed to be on our side, but at the end his point was: the MTA cannot afford it. Still, the MTA agreed to postpone their vote on eliminating student metrocards!

When we came out of the meeting, cameras were flashing, pens moving to write notes, and eyebrows arched at responses. Standing up at the podium was definitely something I wasn’t used to, but I enjoyed the limelight because I represented over 600,000 students who use metrocards on a daily basis. For once, the press was asking students questions in a press conference that was broadcast throughout New York 1 and Fox 5 News. The public got the opportunity to see what students were doing, and how they put in extra time and effort to fight for what they believe in.

As a student, I felt important, and in a way I was astonished because I was a part of progress. Although it was a little step, it was one step closer to our goal. Being involved in such a powerful young movement makes me proud, because I see people who are going to be future leaders and bring positive change. We are youth with the drive to create a revolution and the skills to work with the system. Not that many people can say that.

Sharmin Hossain is a 17-year old senior at Bayside High School, a youth activist and community organizer at the Ya-Ya Network, an active member of the Urban Youth Collaborative, and a future leader.

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