The Firefighter Christopher Santora Educational Scholarship Fund Website

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Nabeed Zaman:
2012 Winner
Long Island City High School

Nabeed Zaman

Winning Essay

“We got sold out, banks got bailed out; all day, all week, occupy Wall Street.”

These were the words that incessantly reverberated during my visit to the Occupy Wall Street Movement. My experience occupying Washington Square Park was life changing, because it really opened my eyes to the way things actually work in America. It meant so much to me because they are fighting for a cause that will soon be my own. Many of the occupiers are college students who are unable to pay off the amount of debt they accumulated and are looking to the government for some help. It was a beautiful experience—we sat, we chanted, we danced, we listened—and we did all of that as a unit. It was a really good feeling to see that so many people are fighting the same battle and that they are banding together to make that change. That experience has made me really hopeful because I know that the voice of the ninety-nine percent will be heard eventually. It felt amazing to be a part of something greater than myself, if only for a couple of hours. I am dedicated to the cause and support the movement for a number of personally significant reasons. Those few hours really showed me just how powerful the youth could be when we unite. I do not think I could have had that experience elsewhere.

“Unchecked corporate greed is making our patients sick” “Social and economic inequalities are making our patients sick. And doctors and nurses are tired of practicing in a system that is so broken.”

As a prospective physician, I find the state of our healthcare system here in the United States to be extremely disheartening. Due to the nature of large healthcare organizations and socioeconomic disparities, millions of Americans are stranded without access to care – something subliminally viewed by the government as an amenity, when in actuality, it’s a necessity.

A prime example of corporate greed that affects me directly is the proposal by some banks to charge fees for debit cards and require higher minimum balances on checking accounts. This was an issue, I as a student, was unwilling to lower my gaze to. In today’s day and age, everything is done electronically and online. My debit card is my wallet. I refuse to pay for something that should be free. As a future wage earner and future voter, I hope to see the economic flaws in the United States resolved politically, through increased taxes on the rich, including taxes on corporations based overseas, as well as implementing a government that works for the people, and not the persons.

The Occupy Wall Street protest has no leader, no centralized committee, and no specific demands either. It is, in my opinion, an extremely vague protest, calling for unspecified reform. It is more of a growing mass of various perspectives on why our current economic system does not include everyone, and what could be done about it. Although this vagueness may seem weakening to the protest, it has its advantages. For one, it unites the people for a common cause, introducing the essence of contradistinction. Their views may collide, their views of resolution may also be different, but they fundamentally all seek refuge in oligarchical capitalism. 
This is what makes it an authentic people’s movement. In the words of Colin Powell, “a movement requires many faces.” By gathering a multitude of people from all walks of life, expressing their dissent for a common flaw, it becomes evident just how desperately the status quo must be overturned.

It is my belief that the 1% can provide innumerable contributions by giving back their wealth through taxes. The extremely conspicuous socioeconomic polarization in the United States could be bridged. The prosperity of the middle class, the bourgeoisie, can finally be composed. As a citizen of the United States dissatisfied with the status quo, I believe that the movement has accomplished its goals. In his 2012 State of the Union Address, President Obama alluded to the unfair tax system in this country, stating that the tax rate paid by a billionaire businessman was less than the tax rate paid by his secretary. Some of the wealthiest people in this nation pay a lower tax rate than anybody beneath them, and this alone was one of the facets of the Occupy movement. Through his emphasis and recognition of issues central to Occupy Wall Street, President Obama acknowledged that there is something seriously wrong with the state of our country, and that alone makes the Occupy movement successful in its endeavors. The voice of the 99% has been heard.

While Occupy Wall Street is often criticized for lacking lucidity and clarity, the movement was undoubtedly successful in shifting the political discourse of this nation away from national debt and irrelevant legislation to real societal issues like inequality and jobs. Occupy Wall Street is a shining example of democracy in the United States – highlighting the growth and succession of an economic issue to a political stage, touching on every aspect of society in between. Although numerous scholars and politicians may argue that rallying was an ineffective method of protesting, Occupy Wall Street was successful in its endeavors, just like the Civil Rights Movement. I was extremely fortunate to have participated firsthand at Occupy Wall Street, and through my experiences I have grown to be a more well-informed, socially active, and politically conscious citizen of the United States of America.


My name is Nabeed Zaman, and I am extremely honored to be a recipient of the Christopher Santora Scholarship. I am currently a senior at Long Island City High School and will be attending the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education in the fall, where I will be pursuing my lifelong passion – medicine.

When I was a kid, growing up in Queens, New York, I was intrigued by just about everything. There wasn’t a thing in the world I didn’t want to do. Naïve and young, my dreams felt realistic to me. My parents supported all of my dreams, since they knew I would change my mind a few hundred times before I discovered my real interests. In the midst of my innumerable desires, medicine remained constant.

However, in April 2004, at the age of nine, all my dreams and desires came to a standstill. After a long battle with cancer, my father was no more. My mother was left a 33-year-old widow, with two children under the age of fifteen. I no longer had time for frivolous dreams. Life was in the fast lane. As I looked up to my mother and my older sister, I realized that I too was left without my best friend and inspiration. My father was a physician at Columbia University Medical Center. It was through him that I first fell in love with the medical profession.

Although he continues to be my everlasting inspiration, it is through witnessing my mother raise us, with such strength and wisdom, that I have gained maturity, understanding, and initiative in life. I was unwilling to let my seemingly adverse life experiences set me back. It has been eight years since I have lost my father. In those eight years, I have excelled beyond my wildest dreams, and gained admission to one of the most prestigious accelerated medical programs in the country.

I continue to live each day with a twofold mission: to one day live my prevailing dream as a medical doctor, and to be the best person I can possibly be. Although my father is unable to see the person I’ve become, my mother is; and she’s my living example of perseverance, strength, integrity, and success.

I hope I can continue to make her proud.
Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Santora.

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