Samantha Fierro, a high school senior at Eleanor Roosevelt High School on the Upper East Side, has been working on her resume of activities for years now. She has taken classes at New York University and the International Center of Photography, and is very into the Israeli self-defense method krav maga. But because her school doesn’t have the capacity to host these activities, Fierro must traverse the city to get to them and because she doesn’t drive — like many of her peers — she rides public transportation. Plainly, her three-trip student MetroCard doesn’t quite cut it, and Fierro has started a petition asking the Department of Education to provide students with unlimited rides.
“We don’t have a lot of money as a family,” said Fierro, who is one of five brothers and sisters, all of whom attend different schools. “I’ve found it repeatedly difficult when I’m trying to ask my mom for money to justify why she would pay for my rides versus all four of my siblings. Because monthly that just becomes way too much for all us.”
Since she posted her petition on the Care2 website roughly three weeks ago, it has gathered nearly 11,000 signatures and hundreds of supportive comments from parents, teachers and students. “How many more obstacles do the poor have to juggle?” wrote Ruth C. “How can a family raise themselves out of poverty and an oppressed state of being if NYC YOUTH cannot take advantage of the immense wealth in NYC if they can’t get there?”
One anonymous commenter wrote, “I am a student that has to travel over an hour to get to my school and on most days, I have volleyball practice. So that means games and that means paying for the bus or walking a ridiculously long time to get home. I am not alone. We need unlimited metrocards.”
Public school students of all ages are issued subsidized full or half-fare MetroCards based on how far they live from their school. Full-fare cards are valid on both subways and buses for three trips per week day, with one transfer each, between the hours of 5:30 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Half-fare cards, for students who are considered to be living close enough to walk to school, only work on buses and require the student to pay half of the cost. According to the Office of Pupil Transportation’s website, “Three trips allows a student to travel from home to school, from school to an after school activity, and then from that activity to home.” The cards do not work on weekends, holidays or over the summer.
Fierro and her friends have found that arrangement inadequate. “If you go to high school in the city, chances are you don’t live right there,” she said. “You probably have friends in different neighborhoods. It’s just hard when you want to participate in things all over city at different times, especially on the weekends.”
A DOE spokeswoman, Toya Holness, issued a brief statement citing “safe, reliable transportation” as the Office of Pupil Transportation’s top priority. “The OPT transports approximately 143,700 public and non-public school students to and from school by bus every day and provides approximately 653,400 students with MetroCards,” the statement read.
With college application season about to begin, Fierro is more aware than ever of how her experiences and skills come across on paper. She hopes to stay in the city for college — somewhere like Fordham University or FIT — where she can continue fighting for students’ rights.
Reach reporter Madeleine Thompson at email@example.com