“Atlantic City will be great again!” this bold, and hopeful statement was proclaimed by my interviewee, Hank. He was born and raised in Atlantic City, and to this day resides in it. Throughout his life he has seen many sides of the soon to be great again city. Hank told us about growing up in Atlantic City and the challenges that he faced. When he was young, he experienced conflict because of his race, but this never stopped him from achieving any goals. As he grew up, he realized how important education was not only for himself, but for everyone, including his growing family. He received a degree in History outside of Atlantic City, and then soon returned back to his hometown and planted his roots there. Hank spoke about how important education was to everyone, and how the system in Atlantic City was slowly deteriorating. This proclamation made me reflect on the current state of Atlantic City and how it can become great again.
Currently, thirty percent of Atlantic City lives below the poverty line. This disadvantaged urban area brings inequalities to the picture in many ways. Also within the city there is a high rate of drugs, violence and crime. These factors are ultimately affecting the children of tomorrow, the future of Atlantic City. Hank highlighted the “fractured school system” and how many problems lie within. From his experience of going to school board meetings and substitute teaching, he saw firsthand how corrupt the system has become. Students in the school have a lack of effort, motivation and drive. This unenthusiastic mindset is ultimately feeding the current corrupt school system. People are taking advantage of this community, and the teachers are giving up on putting in effort. This leads to less of an access to education for children and this urban city is being isolated. With a lack of education, this leads me to believe that the city is undergoing ghettoization. Businesses are leaving, casinos are shutting down, there is disinvestment in the area, it is close to a food desert, and the schools are corrupt. What hope does this leave the future of Atlantic City? Changes need to be made, and it starts with helping the education system first. The community must come together to get through this crisis. The city cannot continue running the same way that it currently is and individual efforts need to be made. The young population needs to get involved with the fix, because this is for their future. The process of ghettoization is having a negative influence of the youth of Atlantic City. They are watching the city fall into poverty. In order to make Atlantic City great again, this process of ghettoization has to slow down and stop.
When we asked Hank about his opinion of Stockton coming into Atlantic City, he was excited about it. He thinks it will be positive for the city. Both he and I especially, think that this will help the educational system. Bringing in a university will give the youth an opportunity to attend and receive higher education. Having the university in the same town will show students that they can make it and achieve more. This also gives them a better and easier opportunity to make connections. In urban areas, sometimes it is harder for people to work their way out of the area and reach for success, but placing a university that wants them to enroll is opening all new doors for this city’s education.
When thinking about the powerful concepts and which truly has an influence on this topic, I cannot stop thinking about the influence of environment. Atlantic City is struggling to get back on track, and because it is declining, there is a domino effect on every other system, including education. Because of the failing environment, people of Atlantic City are struggling, and this then is shown in the education system. Because the youth is seeing the failures in their city, they are losing motivation for success. By bringing Stockton in, carefully and avoiding gentrification, it can improve the environment and create a positive impact on many aspects in the city. Environment plays a massive role on influencing the people that reside there and the motivation and lifestyle they have.
With improving the education system, it will have ripple effect on the entire city and this will help “make Atlantic City great again.” This urban jungle will collectively reestablish itself and return to the thriving city it once was. This will happen slowly, but as Hank mentioned, the youth needs to put efforts in to help improve the city. With the help from community and individuals Atlantic City will be great again. Interviewing Hank was an all-around amazing experience and helped my understanding of life in Atlantic City.