Something happened for Eric Gordon when his principal honked for the peace demonstration he and some friends were holding down Middle Country Road from Newfield High School in Selden in April 2010. The principal gave a nod to the students over the school’s intercom, and the positive response sparked excited conversation among Eric and a friend.
“I thought to him, how cool would it be if we could actually, ya know, organize something?” Eric said. They talked about the kind of youth activism seen in the 1960’s and how they could apply it to their own lives and community – “do something that would help the community, help kids in high school… from collaboration between kids from different ethnic groups - the whole stereotypical images that people fall into these days – to break that up.”
Eric’s idea grew after he moved to Kings Park with his mother and her husband, high school music teacher Roy Abrams, last year. Abrams’s experience as live music director for Brookhaven’s 2010 Youthstock event, which featured six hours of performances by area students, gave Eric a framework for the “something” he had discussed with his friend.
They named their fledgling organization Students for a Saner World. The first project: raise $10,000 to replace the battered instruments in Kings Park High School’s music program. The idea, Abrams said, is an event like Youthstock which features students but is also organized and hosted by students, without what Abrams saw as grandstanding by local politicians.
Abrams and Eric presented the idea at the school district’s Oct. 3 board meeting. The result was excitement.
“It was very well-received,” said district supervisor Susan Agruso. “Some of the logistics need to be worked out, but I think it’s a unique opportunity for students to get involved.”
She said she thought Eric had gone “a little out of the box” in envisioning proactive community involvement by high school students. Eric calls the notion exciting, and Abrams’s eyes narrow as he discusses the implications of the idea.
“I think if you give young people the opportunity, the experience, of becoming community leaders now, they’re going to learn from that and they’re going to bring that with them,” said Abrams.
That starts with an organization that is entirely student-driven, with support from adults but without the steering. A problem with adults can be cynicism, he said.
“It’s really going to teach, I believe, a lot of the adults a thing or two about what it means to be a community,” said Abrams, adding that he hears more problems being brought up than solutions.
Eric said the benefits are not intended to be limited to the school. The plan is to identify issues in the community as a whole, then identify solutions that the students can put in motion on their own.
Ultimately, he would like to turn the organization into a full-fledged non-profit that will continue to operate after he graduates in May. Abrams called the Kings Park community “fertile ground” for such an effort, and Eric hopes to create a success that can inspire other young people.
“If you find it somewhere, you can pick it up and take it somewhere else,” Eric said.