Meet Ian, an activist and performing arts student


Tell us about yourself and your experience living in NYC.

I’ve been living in Kew Gardens for the past two years, but before that I used to live in nearby Forest Hills, and for the first couple years of my life I lived in Brooklyn.

I love everything about the City. I love how diverse New York City is. I like all the landmarks. I like where everything is and all the boroughs. I like visiting different parts of different boroughs—maybe so I can try some food, maybe so I can try an attraction, maybe just so I can get a little more acquainted with those areas.

If I had to say what my favorite parts of NYC are, I would definitely have to say Astoria would be one of them. When it comes to the Bronx, I like going up to the Bronx Zoo and the New York Botanical Garden—and City Island I cannot get enough of because I love seafood. In Manhattan, I usually like hanging around areas like the Upper West Side where Central Park is, near Juilliard and LaGuardia [High School]. I also like going to Christopher Street in Greenwich Village.

A boy wearing a Community Gardening tee-shirt crosses the street in Astoria, Queens

What are you up to this summer?

I work with a
Youth Leadership Council (YLC) as a gardener.* I currently volunteer at the Discovery Community Garden in South Jamaica, Queens, and I do a lot of gardening tasks, such as weeding, watering, picking trash up off the street, mulching, and planting. This is my second year at the YLC. I started last year in April.

I’ve had an interest in nature, not so much as something I would want to do for a job—I want to try to prioritize the arts—but I went to camp for eight years, and I used to always be surrounded by the woods. It was very artistic for me. I have to say going to camp was one of the best experiences of my life, so I figured I should get myself more involved in nature this summer. 

I also joined the YLC because I wanted to make a difference in my community, even if that difference was small.

What else are you up to?

The second important thing I’ve been doing this summer is acting in a production of the hit Broadway play Newsies, where I play the role of a major villain in the story, Warden Snyder. Rehearsals have been held at Holy Child Jesus Catholic Academy each Sunday through Thursday night from 7 to 10pm, so it’s pretty tiring, but I take a lot of pride in it.

The third and most important thing that I’m doing this summer is working at World of Discovery Day Camp in Bayside. As a counselor, I supervise a large group of 9 and 10 year old boys with the assistance of nine other counselors. I look after them to make sure they’re safe and having fun.

That’s a busy summer. What do you do during the school year?

I’m a part of All-City, a program for NYC high school kids who are interested in music to help strengthen their crafts in the vocal arts and instrumentals.

Besides the stuff that I currently do, I’m also a civil rights, gun control, and environmental activist. I believe in fighting for all these different things after an incident that happened with me at my school last year—a racial issue between me and the NYPD.

Ever since then, I’ve been trying to fight for black and Latino rights because I believe that what those police officers did to me was a direct violation of my own. If you were talking to me five years ago my opinion would probably be a little different, but ever since then, it’s just changed me in that way.

Two pictures: on the left, a teenager, Ian, with Fantasia Barrino, and on the right, Ian in a garden

Left: Ian with singer Fantasia Barrino at an All-City concert. Right: Ian gardening. 


What advice do you have for someone looking to be an advocate who doesn’t know where to start?

I’d say try and follow your passions, try and follow your dreams. If you want to try and make a difference in your city or in your community, try and be an activist and do what you feel is going to support you and people who are struggling.

What’s good advice that you’ve gotten before? 

Don’t feel too nervous! You’re going to do great so long as you believe in yourself.

* To learn more about Youth Leadership Councils or apply to join one, visit the YLC Topic page

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