Op-Ed Contest Winner #4
By Adrian Flynn
Beacon students are known around the city for being politically active. It is a reputation that we take pride in because we see the value in caring about larger issues that are developing in the world around us. However, some of these larger issues can be quite distant, and making feasible progress in these areas may be confined to activism that only spreads the word and does not tackle the issue head-on. In order to reaffirm our values and pursue a life of helping others, Beacon students should be more involved in community projects in New York City.
Walkouts and protests show that Beacon students care about upholding democracy and holding leaders accountable. However, after these protests, most Beacon students return to inaction and seem to forget about the issues. Only the student government directed call-making to representatives over banning certain types of firearms. Additionally, the schoolwide walkout, while well-intentioned, was largely symbolic of our beliefs, and may not have done much to change the gun control debate as our school seems to mostly lean in one direction on that issue. If students believe that most people agree with them, then they will feel less of an urgent need to take further action.
The way to shape our impact and make it tangible is to start creating Beacon-led community service projects throughout New York City. As a public school, we are morally obligated to give back to the community which funds our education–the entire city–and show that we are grateful for the opportunities that are bestowed upon us. In the walkouts and protests, the concern seems to be how to most effectively spread the message on social media and online, while more pressing and direct issues are staring us in the face. Human connection is a vital and enriching part of service, one that the Beacon community should take into account when carrying out activism. The Nassau county superintendent in 1994 stated that “we’ve learned that in school districts where community service is mandated many kids who might have been reticent or too shy to volunteer have admitted that they were glad they had been forced into participating.” From this, mandated service, just with more guidance from the administration and more cooperation with other activism projects, may be the way to link active community involvement with real impacts on the city. It will also help some students come out of their shell and embrace the positive emotional impacts of changing the lives of others for the better.
Making this happen will require leadership and effort from both students and the Beacon administration. Enhancing this relationship will also make Beacon a more intertwined and connected community. Community service projects can be found by student research and then proposed to the administration, who will decide the parameters of what the students can or cannot do. Teachers can also help to facilitate this process, and even manage projects to which they feel personally attached. People who are interested in similar issues may do the same projects. The key is that the impact of said projects is local and visible to those who participate in it. In order to ensure that we are enriching and improving the lives of other New Yorkers, we must immerse ourselves in their situations and work with them face-to face, not behind the smokescreen of a cell phone or computer. This is the only way to ensure that results are tangible.
Finally, Beacon should implement more meaningful community service projects because it reflects the missions of Beacon students who want to make a difference in the world and change peoples lives for the better. This program would not only enrich the lives of those who are given help or assistance, but also the lives of the students who take participate because doing meaningful community service has a positive effect on the body and mind. With a partnership between Beacon leadership and the student body, great things can be achieved. As a result of these accomplishments, our community will be a better place for everyone.