Daniel’s Story: Learning & Leading Through Service
Like many buildOn students, Daniel first joined buildOn because he needed to earn 40 hours of community service to graduate. But after realizing how meaningful it was to serve and help others, Daniel quickly became one of the most dedicated buildOn students at his school.
Now a senior at the Bronx Leadership Academy, Daniel has contributed more than 650 hours of service to his community in the Bronx, and he regularly leads service for other buildOn students and encourages new students to come out. “Once they come,” Daniel says, “the service is motivating and contagious.”
Daniel was recently awarded buildOn’s Constructive Leadership Award at the 2021 buildOn Gala! Watch his acceptatnce speech below!
Daniel’s passion for service and his community isn’t the only thing that motivates him to serve. He also loves the opportunity to meet and learn from new people. “From every person I met,” Daniel reflects, “I learned a different skill set or discovered something new.”
buildOn gave me a place to be myself. Who I am in school and who I was with my friends at buildOn was a different person and people respect me for who I am.Daniel
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One of Daniel’s favorite service projects is Meals on Heels, a project where students deliver food to seniors with disabilities. “It’s such important work,” Daniel says, “because many of these people can’t go outside, or get food for themselves. They don’t often get to have a conversation with another person, and this was even worse for them during COVID. But now that things are getting better, I’m able to get back to it and it makes me so happy.”
Given his commitment to service and his buildOn program, in early 2020, Daniel earned the opportunity to go on a Trek to help build a school in rural Guatemala. Along with his classmates, Daniel spent over a week living and working alongside community members in Caserio Pojna, Guatemala.
When asked about his favorite moments from the Trek, Daniel fondly recalls the new foods he tried and the time spent bonding with his host grandfather. When asked about the biggest challenges, he brings up the times he had to walk down a steep hill to fetch water with his host family and the experience of seeing all the community’s students struggle to learn in one small classroom.
After returning from his Trek in Guatemala, Daniel says he is inspired to be more grateful for all that he has and all that his community has offered him. And he aspires to be more like the leaders in his community who have impacted him – those who continually serve and help create a supportive and giving community.
When Daniel grows up, he wants to be a defense attorney to defend Black people against unjust racial profiling. “I see people being wrongly accused and then convicted here in NYC and I want to help change the system,” says Daniel.