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Student Spotlight — Damilola Iroko, John Jay, Participatory Budgeting Project

March 31, 2014 | Members, News

In his own words:

I am a senior at John Jay and a proud member of the first cohort of the CUNY Service Corps.  What has the CUNY Service Corps meant to me?  When first presented with this question, I was overwhelmed with a barrage of thoughts that flooded my mind.  I thought, how could I answer this question without rambling on for days about the life-changing experiences I received in such a short span?  I decided to use a tool that we learned in the orientation stage of the Corps: I decided to free write.

And that’s when it hit me.  My Isaac Newton moment, the moment the apple fell out of the tree and with it brought revelation.  My apple revealed to me the word ACCESS.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the definition of the word ACCESS is “a means of approaching or entering a place.”  In other words, there is a place that we all strive to get to in our lives and without access we will never get there. What is this place?  Police Commissioner William Bratton called it the Blue-Sky Vision in his book “Collaborate or Perish.”  This vision is a goal, dream, or ideal that we all want to achieve before we leave this earth.  So, we spend our whole lives strategizing, planning, and working hard to get to this point.  But no matter how hard we try, without access to the resources we need, whatever they may be, everything we do will be in vain.

The CUNY Service Corps has granted me access to resources that are invaluable in my development — resources that I could not have attained on my own and that will help me on the journey to my “Blue Sky Vision.”  Through the Corps I was able to access a part of me that, otherwise, would have remained locked up inside of me.  The Corps has provided me access to programs centered on helping others, and advocating for those who do not have the same access afforded to others in our nation.  The Corps has provided me access to attributes such as civic engagement, leadership, responsibility, accountability, and advocacy.  Through my placement site, the Participatory Budgeting Project, I have gained access to a tremendously effective and powerful process called Participatory Budgeting.  Through this process, Council Members like Jumaane D. Williams allocate one million dollars from discretionary funds to the district and let the people decide how to spend it through an interactive and enlightening campaign process.

In closing, before the Corps, I would never have been able to tell you such things.  I was just a guy in school waiting to graduate.  Now I feel like I finally have the access that I have been missing and my “Blue Sky Vision” is that much more attainable.  In Teresa Fisher’s writing on cultural and ethical relativism, she mentions that philosophers have always argued against any claim that goes from what “is” to what “ought” to be.  Well, today, I challenge their argument.  I declare that the CUNY Service Corps model is one that ought to be mirrored all over the world.  I believe that this will happen one day and on behalf of my fellow members we gladly accept our role as pioneers.