Transferring into private school after sixth grade graduation is the Mount Vernon student's equivalent of other Westchester County students' bar mitzvahs--"Everyone is doing it!" "My brother went here, it's great!" "It's worth the cost!" But, while splurging on that venue in the city is a supposed good investment, not everyone is afforded this rite of passage. I was fortunate to have been raised a block away from a nationally-recognized elementary school that masterfully educated its diverse student body, over 40% coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. Upon graduation from sixth grade, I hadn't recognized the fortune in this upbringing nor had I recognized the fortune in my "Mount Vernon bat mitzvah". During this coming-of-age, I realized I was different: why did my classmates gasp when I said I was from Mount Vernon but gawked when I said I was first-generation Brazilian? Throughout my years in private school, I have been ever mobilized to not squander this fortune, to utilize the diverse perspective I gained from my elementary school, to take the gawks as well as the gasps as they come, and to prove anyone can have a private education while also trying to improve public ones. I am fortunate not simply because of the schooling I have received these years, but also because I recognized not everyone is "doing it" but everyone is worth the cost, and anyone should be able to "splurge" on that place in the city but no one should be required to because of their own community's circumstances. Education is not a rite of passage, but a right.

~ Bella Coelho