Profiles in Regeneration: Matthew, 18, US
Innovate ways to improve the human condition, no matter the progress that may have already been made.
Young people all around the world are working to build a regenerative future. At 18, Matthew Eid is one of those people. Growing up in Paterson, NJ, he recognized two major issues within the city — unemployment, and homelessness. Paterson, formerly a city with a booming manufacturing industry has struggled massively since major industries left. Because of this, Eid is working with the city’s mayor to create a GED program for unhoused citizens.
Regenerative Futures: How are you feeling right now?
Matthew Eid: I feel excited for this interview!
RF: What’s a secret your search history can tell us about you?
ME: A secret that my search history reveals about me is my love for jazz. This genre is important to me because it transcends music: it celebrates Black culture while battling racial injustice. I attempt to carry on the legacy of jazz through my poetry, where I explore race in America.
RF: What are you reading/learning about at the moment?
ME: I am currently reading Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. By reading this book, I hope to glean greater insight into how the historical, discriminatory practices in housing have prevented minorities from accumulating wealth today.
RF: Who is your favorite human and why?
ME: My favorite person to ever live is Malcolm X. To me, he embodied what it means to be a civil rights leader: from protecting the poor to advocating that Black people take pride in their African history, Malcolm X defended minorities from America’s racist vitriol. As a person of Egyptian ancestry, Malcolm’s love for his culture and faith has taught me the importance of celebrating my ethnicity, no matter the racially-charged comments I receive from those I encounter. Moreover, through his transition from a criminal to a Muslim revolutionary, Malcolm X demonstrated that education has the power to uplift oppressed citizens by expanding their knowledge on history, politics, and human rights. Through my practical research, I hope to follow in the footsteps of Malcolm X by implementing programs that target the root causes of poverty today.
RF: Which key moment inspired you to start your project?
ME: The key moment that inspired me to start my project was during January when I started seeing an increasing number of homeless people sleeping in the commercial district of Paterson, NJ. I was disheartened: most of them were people of color who I believed, because of my historical knowledge on race and poverty in America, never had the same economic and social opportunities as their suburban counterparts, simply because they grew up in impoverished communities. When I returned home that night, I spent hours searching Google for information on homelessness in Paterson; I found that in addition to being one of the least affordable housing markets in the nation, Paterson was leading in high school dropout rates in northern NJ. To address the underlying issue of residents’ lack of education, I began to investigate how a GED program’s curriculum allows adult students to learn the analytical and arithmetic skills needed to earn well-paying jobs. With this background information, I crafted a research-based project that showcased the benefits of obtaining a GED for the homeless, eventually presenting my findings to Mayor André Sayegh and his Innovation Team.
RF: In two years time, what would your project’s success look like?
In two years’ time, success with my project would mean that at least a quarter of Paterson’s homeless earn a GED and obtain the skills needed to become employed. If the program is initiated, I hope that students would not only obtain higher education but also utilize their academic knowledge in the real world. Such a transformation would be truly meaningful to me because it would symbolize that the program provided underprivileged minorities the opportunity to improve their lives, despite the poverty that surrounds them.
RF: If you could focus a large percentage of government funding on one industry or project for the next five to ten years, which would you choose and why?
ME: I would focus a large percentage of government funding on environmental agencies because global climate change has the potential to destroy much of life on Earth. Today, little action is being done to address this issue because it has become politicized. However, America, along with other globalized nations, must work together to reduce fossil fuel emissions before the effects of climate change are irreversible.
RF: What is the best and worst thing about the education system in your country?
ME: The best thing about the education system in the United States is that it provides children with learning from a very young age, which is important because it gets them interested in attending school. However, the worst thing about the education system in the United States is that it too often lets underprivileged kids fall through the cracks: schools in poor, urban areas tend to lack the funding needed to provide their students with proper education. Consequently, these students are left unprepared for adult life, and their lack of adequate schooling makes them unqualified to earn high-paying, sustainable jobs.
RF: Do you have a message for anyone your age living in the year 2060?
ME: Yes. My message would be the following: innovate ways to improve the human condition, no matter the progress that may have already been made.
RF: What inspires or frightens you most about the future?
ME: I’m most inspired by the fact that many young people today embrace social change. To me, it demonstrates a collective awareness that in order to advance societal progress, we must work together. Hence, this inspires me about the future because it signals our willingness to put our differences aside to do what’s best for the world.
RF: Regeneration is…
ME: The process of building growth.
To learn more about Regenerative List finalist, Matthew Eid, click here.