Manny Salazar recently graduated from Mott Hall Bronx High School in the South Bronx. Since joining buildOn in ninth grade, Manny has dedicated himself to serving more than 425 hours with buildOn, including building a school in Nicaragua while on Trek. Manny will be attending college in the fall, and he recently shared his story with buildOn.
Serving with buildOn is a safe space for me. Back at home is not the best place to be—there’s constant arguments and fighting. It’s not even a good place to just do homework. It’s a different environment now because my step dad is out of the house and facing two to three years in prison, but it’s still not a good place to be.
At home, I worry about my younger brother. He was born premature and is disabled. I worry that he doesn’t have a father figure in his life. My dad visits on weekends, but it’s not enough. I look out for him, and I work to be a good role model for him. That’s another reason I serve with buildOn—I want to show him that you can build a healthy community around yourself.
Above: A leader within buildOn at Mott Hall Bronx High School, Manny was an intern for buildOn in his final year of high school, helping to prepare service projects and recruit more students to serve.
buildOn has been that healthy community for me because nobody really dislikes each other when you’re serving. Everybody puts all their opinions behind them and nobody has conflict with each other. On top of that, when I’m serving, I’m helping others. That’s what I want to do—help people.
…when I’m serving, I’m helping others. That’s what I want to do—help people.
I love giving back to my community here in the Bronx. My favorite project that we do is make sandwiches and hand them out to homeless people and talk to them. Once, I helped a veteran who was homeless, and he gave me the advice to keep on pursuing my education. That’s stuck with me and I’ve always thought that education is power.
Because of my belief in education, I was so excited to go on Trek to build a school in Nicaragua. It was such a wonderful feeling. Now, because of that school, a whole village has access to education. Literacy rates will improve and people will have more power and realize all the things they are capable of. That school will help the children in that village and help the generations to come. That’s the power of service and education.
Above: Manny (back row, second from left) and other buildOn students from the Bronx visited the village’s old school while on Trek in Nicaragua.
Whenever we serve here in the Bronx, it’s with Braulio, our buildOn coordinator. I’ve always wanted to help people, and Braulio has always given me that support and extra push that I needed to help others. And he’s has always listened to what I have to say and given me advice—and it’s those conversations and him being a mentor that has made buildOn such a healthier environment than my home.
Braulio has pursued a career in which he’s helping people, and that’s what I want to do, too.
Braulio has impacted my life in so many ways. This year, he helped me so much with college. I wasn’t planning on going to college after high school, but he introduced me to St. Lawrence University, where he went to school, and he put in a good word for me. I was accepted on a full ride! Braulio has pursued a career in which he’s helping people, and that’s what I want to do, too. That’s why I want to become a teacher, so I can continue to serve. buildOn has shown me that I can get there.
Below: Manny holds his acceptance letter to St. Lawrence University next to Braulio, who is sporting a sweater from his alma mater, on College Decision Day 2018.