Clara Song and Sabera Hossain, seniors at East Meadow High School, showcase the power of asking questions, the diversity their high school has to offer and the various perspectives through which community members could see their peers through their social media project Humans of East Meadow.
Their platform shares photographs of others along with interviews with peers, administration and faculty members. “We both realized how disconnected some of the students at East Meadow were from each other and wanted to create a social media platform where the East Meadow community can learn about each other and see similarities with other people that they never would've thought they'd see,” said Song.
Humans of East Meadow is based on the Instagram account @humansofny run by Brandon Stanton, where posts are made for others to learn and relate to stories of people who live throughout New York City. Song and Hossain thought it would be a good idea to bring the same to East Meadow and start an account at their high school. Originally, they said that their intention was to make Humans of East Meadow a club, but due to the long term waiting process of creating a new club and getting it approved, they realized it would be easier to just start their own account without the school’s affiliation.
“We want others to see the diversity of East Meadow and show that everyone has a story to tell,” one shared. “It’s only until you actually talk to someone that you will find interesting things about the community that you never would have known.” As Song and Hossain are roaming the halls after school, or even if it is just an off period, they make sure to have at least one random encounter and start a conversation with someone they may not know. The selection of people they highlight on their account is completely random, as it starts with a vague question, prompting a longer conversation.
They hope to spread their account outside of East Meadow High School to the East Meadow community, they said. “It’s honestly amazing hearing how everyone has such unique stories and some stories that we’ve heard are ones where you are in total awe of the experiences people have gone through and overcome, but then there are also those times where you laugh because everyone's personality shines through during each conversation.” Each post shared represents a different character, obstacle, or story and it allows others to have a better understanding and give hope to others that they can do the same, even if the source is anonymous.
It took Song and Hossain by surprise when they saw how easily people started opening up in their interviews and realized people may just find it easier to open up on a larger platform. They think it is important to have random encounters with people rather than planning an interview.
“When we approach someone and have a conversation, we first tell them about our account and the intent of our account. We also emphasize that every story does not get posted,” they say.
An important aspect they want others to get out of their account is to take a step back for a moment and realize it is important to have human to human interaction, rather than just having a conversation through a piece of technology.
They said that the process was tough, but they launched it this past October. Song and Hossain are both AP and Honors students with internships, jobs, social life and more on their plates. Something that they really took to heart was the criticism they received in the beginning of the process.
“Many people were saying how unoriginal our account was and were saying how we only started it for college — which was not the case,” Song said. “We simply wanted to share the diversity that EMHS had to offer. So overall, we think the misinterpretation of the intent made us question the account.” However, receiving messages about how the stories have affected students has made them realize how the majority of the school sees the positivity in their account.
Abiha Amir, also a senior at East Meadow High School, said, “The fact that all these people have so many different stories in their lives and they feel comfortable sharing it to the whole school, reminds me of how amazing our school is because it created an environment where the students actually feel comfortable sharing their personal stories to everyone.”
This account gives another senior, Sahar Rashedy, hope that she can get through any obstacle just as others have, she said. “Well it’s nice hearing other people stories and how they feel. The posts on the account and the stories are relatable and I feel if other people go through the same things I did, you know I can too. It motivates you that you can do this. You can get through it too.”
The two hope to continue the account after they graduate by passing it down to undergraduate students. To follow them or see their most recent posts, visit @humansofem on Instagram.