TASMIA's alarm goes off at 5:40 A.M. at her family's apartment in the East New York section of Brooklyn. After helping her two younger sisters get ready for the day, she takes two subways, then a bus to cross the Verrazano Narrows Bridge to the Staten Island Technical High School. Getting there takes an hour and a half. Returning takes two and a half hours.
In Bangladesh, from which Tasmia's family emigrated 10 years ago, her father was a college assistant principal. Here in New York, he worked at a friend's food cart—until one day an explosion left him with third-degree burns over his face and body and unable to do heavy work. The family lost its apartment, and moved into public housing.
Living there, though discouraging at first, led to a series of discoveries for Tasmia. One was her love of gardening—of getting her hands dirty producing perfect tomatoes. She also loved the community she found in the garden. As she wrote in an essay, "There's a pre-existing mutual understanding. We have all been there," being economically disadvantaged "or being condemned simply due to our place of residence. I am honored to be part of a community that shines of persistence, perseverance, and unity." In the fall, Tasmia will continue gardening and commuting, but in a different direction. She will enroll at N.Y.U.'s Tandon School of Engineering in downtown Brooklyn and hopes to study at some of N.Y.U.'s worldwide campuses.