Faces of Long Island celebrates the uniqueness of everyday Long Islanders. In their own words, they tell us about their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. Newsday launched this social media journey into the human experience to shine a light on the diverse people of this wonderful place we call home.

‘I speak to women, to youth, to minorities. I love the fact I have access to knowledge where I can impact and change someone’s life.’

Ahkyra Jackson, South Islip

“Growing up, there wasn’t a lot of empathy towards children. There was a lack of love. I became very depressed. I didn’t feel heard or valued. I would go to school and keep my head down and get amazing grades, but if there’s no positive reinforcement that kid loses self-esteem. A 100 on a test doesn’t mean anything if no one at home is proud of you. That left me feeling unwanted and unloved for a long time. In ninth grade, I got so depressed I wanted to end my life. I tried twice and it wasn’t until the second time when I was admitted to the hospital that they said they weren’t going to release me back to my parents.

“For all of 10th grade, I was in and out of different schools and group homes. I was placed permanently in a group home my 11th grade year and I was more focused than ever on not staying there for a long period of time. I just knew I had a bigger purpose than being in the system. I didn’t want to be stagnant and I knew if I graduated and attempted college or to work, I would have a better shot at some normalcy for my life.

The motivation to do all this came from myself. The little girl no one ever listened to, I always go back to that girl. I had so many ideas and goals for myself that no one paid attention to. It wasn’t important to anyone. I only had myself to lean on.

‘The first day of 11th grade, I walked into my guidance counselor’s office and asked how I could graduate by the time I turned 18. I went to school year-round. I did summer school, night school, and I graduated at 17. Now, I’m the neighborhood aide for the Office of Minority affairs with the county executive’s Department of Human Services. I focus on community outreach; I see what is lacking in the community and in minority areas. I speak to women, to youth, to minorities. I love the fact I have access to knowledge where I can impact and change someone’s life.

‘The motivation to do all this came from myself. The little girl no one ever listened to, I always go back to that girl. I had so many ideas and goals for myself that no one paid attention to. It wasn’t important to anyone. I only had myself to lean on. Even now, things are better, but it’s still my job to protect that little girl. When I’m faced with things, I won’t disappoint her. I pull up strength from the depths of my soul and get things done.”