WRITTEN BY NICOLAS FERNANDES
High school students from the city’s Youth Leadership Councils visited St. Francis College this week for a panel discussion with Eyewitness News co-anchor Shirleen Allicot about having a voice and being a leader at such a young age.
The Youth Voice Counts Town Hall Meeting started with a speech from Borough President Eric Adams, who held up a big sign that read “Impossible” and stressed the importance of reading it as “I am possible,” the line he has always said when people doubted him.
Adams told the high schoolers that they don’t have to wait until they’re older to make an impact.
“You’re not the leaders of tomorrow,” Adams said. “You’re the leaders of today.”
The youths work with city councilmembers to solve policies and improve their schools and communities.
Trina Barua – a senior at the Bronx High School of Science – is new to the NYC Service Youth Leadership Council, but already knows that it will help her make an impact. Barua likes to conduct research on the environment and the council will give her the opportunity to work on policies that can benefit the environment.
“The youth in New York City are hungry,” another student councilmember Jacqueline Rozado told the audience. “They want more and they want to be involved in a policy that affects them.”
Rozado – a student at John Browne High School in Queens and member of the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council, Interagency Coordinating Council on Youth and the Coro New York Leadership Center – explained how she benefits from all three programs by gaining hands on experience in policy making.
High school students often feel they are amateurs who cannot make an impact, but they can make a big difference with programs like this, Rozado told the audience.
Students are usually affected by change, but most adults don’t give them the opportunity to make changes, said Leon M. Goldstein High School senior Frantzy Luzincourt.
Youth Leadership Councils are one of the few places where teens are actually given the opportunity to voice their opinion, he added.
“A lot of times adults will push you to the side and not really listen to what you have to say,” Luzincourt told the audience.
Luzincourt has served on the Borough Student Advisory Council and the Chancellor’s Student Advisory Council for the past two years.
After joining these councils, he was able to go back to school and explain to his classmates why certain changes that were inconveniencing them were being implemented.
The programs shape every aspect of who teenagers are later on in life and teach them how to work in the world around them, Rozado said.
“This takes a toll on who you become later on in life,” Rozado told the audience.
Bringing youths together makes them realize how much leadership skills they have, said NYC Chief Service Officer Paula Gavin.
At the first NYC Service Youth Leadership Council meeting this year, none of the teens knew each other at first, but soon started to contribute impactful ideas.
“Immediately they realized they have something to offer,” Gavin told the crowd.
Luzincourt would like to implement a change that helps high school students figure out what they want to do after graduating.
This is a major problem — especially at his high school that is known for math and science – because a lot of students feel obligated to apply to prestigious universities for math and science programs even though it is not what interests them.
All NYC high school students have until November 30 to apply to this year’s program on nycservice.com.