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Kid with one of world's longest school commutes gets some relief

Bryan Derballa

Santiago Muñoz, 14, seen here waiting to transfer to the 4 train in Manhattan in January, had one of the world's longest commutes -- until last week.

Think you have a lousy commute? Don't complain to Santiago Munoz.

The New York City 14-year-old spent five hours a day on subways and buses to get to his elite high school, earning him recognition in a United Nations exhibition about the world's longest school commutes.

His days of waking up at 5 a.m. are over, though. Last week, the freshman moved to a new public-housing complex that's closer to the prestigious Bronx High School of Science, and now it only takes him an hour and 10 minutes to get to class.

"I used to take two buses and two trains," Munoz said Tuesday. "It was two and a half hours each way."

He said "some people thought I was crazy" to make the long journey from the Far Rockaway section of Queens to the Bronx when he could have gone to a high school closer to home, but he put education over convenience.

"Bronx Science is a great school and has a great reputation and I just wanted to push myself forward," said Munoz, who hopes to become a doctor.

Munoz's daily odyssey was featured in a United Nations exhibit that also highlighted a Kenyan girl who walked two hours to school, Brazilian children who ride mules, and a Thai girl who walks 40 minutes to board a crowded rickshaw.

The math whiz said that after housing officials saw a New York Post story about his plight, they offered his family a transfer.

A spokeswoman for the New York City Housing Authority said that since his previous apartment was affected by superstorm Sandy, Munoz was eligible for a move.

Now that he's in north Brooklyn, he said, "I'm getting more sleep and I'm more productive."

A member of the math team, he hopes he can play some sports and hang out with friends more with all that extra time on his hand.

While he's thrilled to be traveling less, he said he would have continued to endure the longer trek for the chance to graduate from a school that counts eight Nobel Prize winners among its alumni.

"You don't get anything free in life," he said.