It’s a high-profile volunteer job high school students as young as 16 could have — but virtually none of them are applying.
Borough president Ruben Diaz Jr., wants more teenagers to join local community boards, but many of the Bronx’s most active students are finding other ways to make positive impacts.
Convincing them to join is not even the first uphill climb Diaz faces. First, he needs to let young people know what this local governing body is.
“This is my first-time hearing of a community board,” said Jeffrey Binet, 17, a senior at New Visions Charter High School for Advanced Math and Science. “It sounds like something I would like to be a part of and bring it to the attention of others for them to play an active role.”
Binet, who mentors students at his Marble Hill school, also ensures New Visions disposes of its trash in environmentally friendly ways. His interest in protecting the Earth doesn’t end there.
In his Soundview neighborhood, Binet picks up debris and gathers material for recycling. He also wants to create more mental health awareness for people of all ages. Binet and his friends plan to make a short film on the subject and host events helping to spark in-depth conversations on the subject.
Although it is something he would find of great interest, Binet does not have the time in his schedule to apply and join the Community Board. Between going through the college application process, the follow up and possibly leaving the area, there just isn’t time.
“Had I known sooner about community boards, I would have applied,” he said.
“It seems like a great opportunity to benefit your community on a large scale due to a larger platform,” said Ivy Isaac, 17, a member of the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center’s Youth Leadership Council. The high school senior, who also learned about community boards for the first time, volunteers with the center’s Reading Buddies” program helping young children.
While senior year might be difficult to start the application process, junior year might have been a better bet.
“Because after all the activities that I’ve taken part in, this would be the next step to further my professional career,” said Flor De Liz Feliz, 16. “This would also help me narrow (down) different careers that I am interested in.”
The New Visions junior teaches a religion class through her local church and volunteers at her community center. At her school, Feliz volunteers at events like “Back to School Night,” and takes part in bake sales as well as parent-teacher conferences.
“My generation is often complaining about their surroundings while growing up,” Feliz said. “If I could tell them anything it is … you wouldn’t find many things wrong with your neighborhood if things were changed. But for things to change, everyone needs to get involved.”
How might Diaz and his community boards convince teenagers like Feliz to join?
She recommends utilizing social media and contacting high schools through guidance counselors. Young people, especially between 16 and 18 “are the ones hoping for these kinds of opportunities,” Feliz said, who is interested in joining the community board.
“Once you have us, we can reach out to those around us, especially the younger ones, because they look up to us,” she said.
Having existing community board members come out to speak directly to students could also help, Binet said, adding it would pique interest from other teens, enough to get them to consider joining and help their community.
And, he has some words of advice for teenagers thinking of giving back through a community board and other organizations.
“I would (want) people to know supporting the community can also include finding your passion,” Binet said, “and sharing it with others in a positive way.”