Editor’s note: Sultana is a sophomore at Elmont High School. She wrote this proile as part of Hofstra University’s recent High School Summer Journalism Institute. It is the third in a series of Institute participants’ works that the Herald will publish in the coming days and weeks. Mikelley Baptiste, too, was an Institute participant.
When Mikelley Baptiste travels to the annual New York State School Music Association competition to play her flute, she notices how people view her. “I’ve always gotten looks,” she said. “People look at me differently, whether it’s regarding dance, music or my academics. They just don’t think of me as the same.”
Whether it is NYSSMA or the Sewanhaka Central High School District Musical Festival, Mikelley, 15, a rising Elmont Memorial High School junior, often realizes that she stands out, particularly because of her skin complexion and Haitian descent.
“People just don’t think my parents can afford all of the luxuries they have. They assume that because of my skin color, I must not have the economic standing that I do,” Mikelley said.
“One time, my dad asked his [non-Haitian] co-worker to drop something off to his house,” she said. “His co-worker drove around the block several times before calling my dad and telling him that he couldn’t find the house. Once he realized that my father's house was the one he had been in front of, his first reaction was, ‘Really? That’s your house? Huh, I thought it would have been someone else’s house.’
“He didn’t think my father could own a nice house, filled with nice cars,” she said. “It just didn’t seem to click in his head.”
Mikelley’s father, who works for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and her mother, who is a nurse, dedicate most of their time to ensuring that they were economically stable. That has enabled Mikelley to to lift her head high, despite the negativity, and persevere in all of her goals, she said.
At Elmont High, Mikelley is known for her heart of gold. Volunteering for hundreds of hours of community service at her church — the Bellerose Assembly of God on Hillside Avenue — every other Sunday, as well as at her school, she spends much of her time putting smiles on the faces of her peers.
Soon to be 16 years old, Mikelley stays true to her Haitian roots by speaking Creole, French and English — making her trilingual at the mere age of 15.
With a rigorous course load of Advanced Placement courses, music classes and exams to take such as the SAT, Mikelley still finds the time to participate in a variety of extracurricular activities, including senior band, marching band, district band, chorus, jazz choir, senior high musical, World Language Honor Society, National Junior Honor Society, the Black History Program, Peer Assisted Learning System for children with learning disabilities, newspaper club, varsity cheerleading, Future Business Leaders of America as well as Peer Educators. She attributes her energy to her love of nature, whether she is practicing yoga outdoors or simply taking in a breath of fresh air.
Although Mikelley is unsure about her future, she is contemplating a career in medicine or journalism. “I’m just waiting for something to call me,” she said. “It’s not a matter of academics or a matter of not attaining my goals. I just want to be happy in what I do.”
So, how does Mikelley do it? How has she been able to attain so much in such little time? “I feel like my faith inspires me,” she said. “Reading through the Bible and seeing all the amazing things Jesus has done inspires me to follow in his footsteps. I just want to show as much love as possible.”
“She’s amazing,” Venette Simon, an Elmont Memorial High School, said with a laugh. “She always has a smile on her face and remains so optimistic. Just seeing her in the hallway brightens my mood. Mikelley is such a hardworking individual, and her overall vibe is just filled with happiness.”
Mikelley’s love for others and her passion for spreading joy carry into her academic life. Serving as the perfect role model for both students and adults alike, she remains humble through all of her achievements. Good luck to Mikelley in all of her future endeavors!