Tiffany Wong, a senior at Elmont Memorial High School, goes above and beyond with her community service in Elmont.
The 17-year-old tutors seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade math students, gives blood and encourages others to become blood donors, and takes stray cats to the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter to be spayed and neutered before they are adopted.
Wong considers her role as a tutor a “great privilege.” One pre-algebra student she worked with was struggling, but Wong was happy to help her master long division. Once she got the basics down, Wong said, it all clicked.
“I wanted to make sure that she knew the basics, and once she got the basics down, using the calculator would be very easy for her later on,” Wong said. “So I was really proud of her to reach that light bulb moment of understanding and work from there.”
As for her blood-donation advocacy, Wong is quick to tell people that donating a pint of blood can save up to three lives. “That’s something that I’ve always kept in the back of my head whenever I go in” to donate, she said.
She first donated blood last year, when she turned 16, after rushing home to have her mother sign a permission slip to donate at school. “I was always for advocating for saving lives,” Wong said. “That was always a big part for me — especially since certain diseases run in my family, such as cancer and things of that sort. People need blood every day. It’s very much in dire need, especially around the winter season.”
According to the New York Blood Center, winter is a difficult time to collect blood, because planned vacations and cold weather inhibit people’s motivation to donate. Someone in the United States needs blood every two seconds, according to the American Red Cross. Cancer patients, trauma patients, sickle cell patients, burn patients, organ transplant patients and those with chronic diseases all need donated blood.
Wong has been rescuing cats in her neighborhood since 2018, and it all started with a black cat with white toes that she named Mittens. From then on, she encouraged her whole family to get involved. She fed Mittens milk and cat food, and one day she had kittens.
“Then I realized there was growth within the cat population within Elmont, and I thought, we definitely need to help these kitties,” Wong said. “I didn’t like the state that they were in.”
She even asked her father to build a shelter outside so stray cats had a place to go in cold weather. Tiffany and her dad have helped at least a dozen stray cats in the past five years, but it’s a bit tricky to catch them. She believes that spaying and neutering them is essential.
“As an animal lover myself, it really breaks my heart to see animals in pain or struggling throughout the community,” Wong said. “Especially knowing that I can put my best foot forward and help them have a better life.”
Last August, Wong represented Elmont at the Miss New York Teen USA Pageant, and was named first runner-up.
“I truly love my community, and I will do my best to further contribute and do what I can to make it as beautiful as I see it,” she said.
At the high school, Wong is a captain of the track and cheerleading teams, a member of the Key Club and the Mock Trial Club, and a member of national senior, Mu Alpha Theta and Rho Kappa Social Studies honor societies. She is also vice president of Leading Ladies, in which she and others help young women of color to find themselves and expand their knowledge of other people’s experiences and how those experiences may affect them in their daily lives.
She will be recognized for her community service at the Nassau Board of Cooperative Education Services’ Education Partners Awards Gala on May 7. She was nominated for the honor by Elmont Parent Teacher Student Association President Lynette Battle and Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages.
Battle describes Wong as “out front and present” in Elmont. “She is very active inside school and out,” Battle said. “She is very visible in the community, and she is a role model to a lot of kids.”
Wong said she is honored to have the opportunity to represent her community at the gala. “I’m truly thankful for this opportunity,” she said, “and I hope to further expand upon my talent and my knowledge of education and continue to give back to the Elmont community.”