Spotlight on Community Boards

Mary Elhakam, a sophomore at NYC iSchool, first joined RAP’s youth network as a YouthVoiceNYC blogger (her post can be found here). This summer, the 15-year-old spent her days as an intern at Bronx Community Board 11. Hear more about her experience and what she learned through her internship!

RAP: What drew you to working at a community board?
Mary: It had been an idea for a while, mainly because it was an entirely new thing for me. I’ve done theater and performing arts stuff and thought government might be something to try. Towards the end of the school year, I literally just walked into the office and asked, “Is there anything I can do around here this summer?” I wasn’t sure if they’d want a young person around, but it worked out.

RAP: For someone who doesn’t know, what is a community board? What do they do?
Mary: They basically handle all your local government services. We handled liquor licenses, street activity permits for community events and block parties, and all sorts of safety things. I got the chance to go on a district tour, which is where we drive around and figure out what sorts of violations need to be reported to 311, like potholes and broken sidewalks.

RAP: Did you feel like you had engaging work?
Mary: I’m very lucky that I worked with people who were flexible with me. I never felt like I had to sit there all day and do one thing. I liked learning how things work. I feel like now I know what my rights are and how to act on them so that if there’s something going wrong, I know what I can do about it.

RAP: Do you think there should be more youth involvement on community boards?
Mary: I think involvement should absolutely be encouraged and is very important. If we have more youth involved, it could help break the stereotype that all teens are reckless, just want to go party, or have no respect and appreciation for rules and adults which is a good thing. The experience is helpful, but for those who are interested. If someone goes in uninterested and spends the entire time hating everything they will miss out on many amazing learning experiences.

Mary plans to intern with her community board again next summer!