Ten-year-old Ridgewood activist raises funds to help classmates pay their graduation dues

jacob altamirano california pizza
Angélica Acevedo/QNS

You’re never too young to become a politically active community leader, and 10-year-old Jacob Altamirano, a Ridgewood resident, is proof of that.

The P.S. 290Q student stands out as a caring and informed member of the community due to his fundraising efforts, both for his classmates and his personal development, as well as his commitment to local politics.

“I like standing up for people’s rights,” Altamirano said.

Altamirano also likes helping those around him. One recent example of his altruism is his goal to raise $8,000 in order to help his fellow classmates (there’s about 90 of them) pay their graduation dues by June. The idea came to him after his mother, community leader and activist Connie Altamirano, was concerned with the $85 price tag that comes with the celebration.

“When she brought up the graduation dues it hit me, like, how are other parents and children gonna pay their graduation due?” Altamirano said. “They could be living without a mom. They could be poor. They could be in our same situation.”

So Altamirano took it upon himself to start “Pizza with a Purpose” with the goal of helping everyone in his class.

“We shouldn’t be excluding other kids, because it’s unfair,” he said.

Jacob partnered with California Pizza Kitchen at Atlas Park in September, and works eight to 10 hours once a month to collect funds. He usually acts as a host and helps the staff give out the kids menu, then asks guests if they’d like to donate 20 percent of their check to Ridgewood’s P.S. 290Q. Often times he even offers raffles, so guests could win gift cards that he receives from other businesses in the community.

As of Sunday, Jan. 19, Altamirano has raised $4,000, which means he’s halfway to meeting his goal.

And his efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.

Photo courtesy of Connie Altamirano

“We are so proud of the work Jacob is doing for his peers and the community,” P.S. 290Q’s Prinicpal José Luis Jiménez said. “He is a great example of what we want our scholars to be, to give of themselves, their time and talents to serve others and learn responsibility and agency.”

Nicole Radosti, his homeroom teacher, nominated Jacob for the prestigious Junior National Young Leaders Conference, which offers students from across the nation a chance to spend a week in Washington, D.C., to learn how to be a leader in their communities.

Radosti said Altamirano is “hardworking” and has “a tremendous heart.”

“Jacob is one of our longtime scholars at P.S. 290Q,” Ms. Radosti said. “He is an extremely intuitive and compassionate scholar that easily gets along with all of his peers and teachers. He anticipates people’s needs and uses this high level of empathy to enhance his literary comprehension and expression.”

After being nominated for the award, Altamirano wrote an essay in order to receive a $250 scholarship for the JNYL Conference about leadership. He chose to write about his inspiration: his big sister Jamie.

“Everyone defines leadership differently, but I think a leader should be, a communicator, have a futuristic vision, and know how to turn their ideas into reality,” Altamirano’s essay read. “When I think of the word leadership and its meaning, I think of my older sister Jamie.”

Altamirano said he’s “always looked up to his sister,” and her way of helping the “underdog.” For instance, she raised $5,000 for Nepal after the 2015 Gorkha earthquake while she was in P.S. 290Q. He hopes to follow in his sister’s footsteps and attend middle school I.S. 73 in Maspeth, just like Jamie.

Photo courtesy of Connie Altamirano

It’s clear, though, that Jacob and his sister are following in their mother’s footsteps, who has taught them the importance of participating in politics, both at the local and state level. The mother-daughter-son trio make sure to read the newspaper every morning and set their own legislative priorities each year.

They often collect water bottles in order to raise enough money to travel to Albany and personally speak to lawmakers about “better public school education” and “homelessness.” They’ve also met with Councilman Robert Holden, and Senators Joseph Addabbo and Michael Gianaris on numerous occasions.

“Jacob is carrying on his mother’s tradition of serving his community. We are all proud of his efforts to make Queens stronger by helping his neighbors and school,” Senate Deputy Leader Gianaris said.

Connie hopes her son will be a senator, but isn’t pressuring him to decide now.

“You know when you don’t know what you want to be but you’re falling into it? That’s what I see in him,” Connie said. “I’m just empowering him to empower others. This is all because I expose him to what I do and because we make decisions as a family.”

Now, Altamirano and his family are fundraising for his trip to Washington, D.C., as the total cost of the experience will be about $4,000. If you want to help the young leader, visit their GoFundMe page: “Send Jacob to DC.”