By Naeisha Rose
City Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) announced the results of the participatory budget vote for projects in his district last week at the Campus Magnet Complex to more than 200 students in Cambria Heights.
Schools within the district received over $1.675 million in investments, according to Miller.
“Each year a Council member gets $6 million for capital projects, and $1 million goes back to the community to decide how to spend the money,” he said. “Young folks are our future leaders…and if they learn that the process works …they can teach the next generation.”
Members of the community as young as 11 years old spend a year at public meetings proposing projects that they would like their council member to fund, then budget delegates volunteer to make a list of the proposals and work with the city to see which items can realistically be turned into a project before it is put on a ballot. Once the ballot items are selected, the public has a week to vote on up to five measures that they want to see funded.
The Campus Magnet Complex received funding for two initiatives: gymnasium upgrades worth $400,000 and a football field house upgrade worth $500,000.
The complex houses four schools: Math, Science Research and Technology Magnet High School, Humanities and the Arts Magnet High School, the Institute for Health Professions at Cambria Heights and the Benjamin Franklin High School for Finance & Information Technology at 207-01 116th Ave.
Students from the four schools were excited about the announcement and happy to be a part of the process.
“They came to us with the participatory budget during our lunch period when we all would be there and we had to choose [five initiatives],” said Jacob Ross, a senior at Benjamin Franklin. “I voted for the football field, and a new [public address] system.”
Benjamin Franklin Principal Carla Theodorou was happy to see her students being civically engaged.
“Voting and getting active in the community is something that all the schools are focusing on right now,” said Theodorou.
For student leaders George Daniels and Jabare Carroll, the chance to vote for something important for their school meant having their voices heard.
“Normally, urban schools don’t have that much funding,” said George, a student body secretary. “We have a track team and they are really good, they qualify for the Penn Relay, but they don’t have track meets here because our tracks are too small.”
George, who co-captains the volleyball team with Jabare, hopes the funding will showcase the schools sports teams.
“The turf on the school was patchy,” said Jabare, who is a student council president. “I’m glad that he is doing this…the freshman will see that there is always something that could be done if you put your mind to it,” added the senior.
The seniors intend to study neurobiology, criminal justice and theater after they finish their high school studies in June.
The Campus Magnet Bulldogs football coach, Rufus Dunton, who was a student at the school in the ‘70s, was elated that the upgrades included new locker rooms.
“I went to school here a long time ago, and these are the same lockers,” said Dunton. “We want to make our school one of the top schools in the city just like everybody else.”
York Early College Academy, PS 176, PS 360, and PS 37 received $300,000 for mobile laptops carts and laptop computers.
Auditorium upgrades worth $375,000 were allocated to PS 176, PS 37 and IS 8.
Water fountains with bottle refilling stations at PS 15, PS 37, PS/MS 147 and PS 360 worth $120,000.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose