History has shown us that the youth is a catalyst for change. Every social movement has been incited by younger generation’s yearning for change. And the youth today are doing just that in the Bronx. The South Bronx has become synonymous for poverty and crime; aesthetically unpleasing. Specifically, areas surrounding the Hunts Point neighborhood have been plagued with trash dump sites, congested street traffic, and the area’s well documented history of prostitution. But a group of students from the Bronx Studio School for Writers and Artists want to remove the negative histories associated with the area and create a more welcoming atmosphere for themselves and their neighbors.
I had the opportunity to speak to Genevieve De Bose, a teacher at the Bronx Studio School for Writers and Artists, about the Beauty of the Bronx project. She, along with fellow teacher Adriana Gonzalez worked with a group of seventh and eighth grade students to create the neighborhood beautification project. The Beauty of the Bronx project will focus on cleaning up neighborhoods around Hunts Point and Longwood Avenue in the hopes to reduce the amount of rats.
Genevieve and her students successfully applied for the Citizen’s Committee for New York City Neighborhood Grant. According to Citizen’s Committee, the Neighborhood Grant “…awards micro-grants of up to $3,000 to resident-led groups to work on community and school projects throughout the city. We prioritize groups based in low income neighborhoods and Title I public schools. ” Every year several community based organizations throughout the city are selected to receive the grant after submitting an essay describing their project and objectives. The students thought it would be a great idea to use the funds to develop a beautification project that would clean up trash on the neighborhood.
Using the writing skills they learned at school, the students put together a compelling description of how the trash and animal feces had contributed to rats running wild in the areas near their school and homes. The students detailed how it wasn’t unusual to see rats running near them on the way to school and home.
In addition to cleaning up the neighborhood, the students want to change the mindsets of Hunts Point and Longwood residents. They have developed a number of mechanisms that everyone can easily get involved in and get excited about keeping the neighborhood clean. The students will create eye-catching garbage cans to encourage people to put their trash in the can. Also, host a series of “teach ins” that aim to teach other students about the effects of unmonitored trash and the importance of keeping their neighborhood clean.
I asked Genevieve how would she suggest getting other Bronxites to get involved in beautifying their neighborhood and she said it starts with the individual. It takes one person to say they want to make a difference and get out in the world a make change. Once others see this, they will encourage them to do the same. They can research other organizations doing similar work and identify partnership opportunities. If they are concerned about funding their projects, they can do research about funding opportunities by visiting their local libraries. In essence, be the change they want to see in the world.