ISLIP TOWN—Islip Town officials honored two educators, Jennifer McCracken and Dr. Monique Darrisaw-Akil, during a special ceremony in celebration of Black History Month at the town board meeting on Tuesday.
McCracken, an Islip resident, has been working for the Bay Shore School District for 20 years.
“When I was younger, I lived in Bay Shore and actually attended Gardiner Manor Elementary School, where I am currently employed,” she said. “It is wonderful working where people know me on a personal level. It gives me a sense of pride.”
McCracken said teaching could be a demanding profession “I never make assumptions about my students,” she added. “Every student is different; no two students learn in the same way. It is our job as educators to find out what motivates students.”
She says the best part about her job is receiving letters from former students, letting her know how they are doing in life.
McCracken has been a member of the First Baptist Church Scholarship Committee for the past 10 years. “Every year, we offer monthly stipends to children attending college,” she said. “We assist them with college applications and interviews and emphasize giving back to the community. Many of these children are from Bay Shore, Central Islip and Brentwood.”
For the last few years, she has also assisted with the Jacob Marley Foundation, shopping for and wrapping holiday gifts for more than 100 families in need in the Bay Shore area. Chris and Traci Quackenbush established the private, nonprofit foundation in 1993 with a major focus on improving lives through education.
Darrisaw-Akil, a Freeport resident, became the assistant superintendent of the Brentwood School District in 2014.
When asked about the kinds of challenges the district faces, she said resources are at the top of the list. “[The Brentwood School District] is a wonderful community with hardworking students and faculty members,” she added, “but we could always use more federal and state aid.”
Darrisaw-Akil has also been the organizing force behind Brentwood’s My Brother’s Keeper program at the Freshman Center. This program is dedicated to raising the achievement of young black and Hispanic men through character development, job readiness, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) enrichment. These students will travel to the nation’s capital in the spring for college visits and sightseeing.
Darrisaw-Akil is a member of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Long Island Chapter, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Long Island, as well as a mentor with Big Girls Inc. Last year, she became a “big [sister]” to a 15-year-old girl from Westbury. The two meet twice a month and have attended plays and done homework together.
Darrisaw-Akil described the experience as being “very personal” for her. She says that since becoming the assistant superintendent, she doesn’t get the same “quality time” with young people that she did when she was a teacher. “It’s an opportunity to help shape a young person’s life,” she added, “and hopefully have a long-lasting relationship that’s not work-related.”
She is also an avid runner who participates in Brentwood’s Gary Mintz 5K to raise money for student scholarships. The annual run started in 1995, the same year as the sudden death of the Brentwood High School principal for whom this event is named.
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