Rutgers Houses youth is the toast of the state

By Jared T. Miller

A recent private meeting with State Senator Daniel Squadron rounded out a busy school year for Christopher Rivera, a resident of Rutgers Houses who was recently named New York State’s “Youth of the Year.”

Rivera, 17, who received the accolade from the Boys’ and Girls’ Club of America, was selected for the award out of a possible 270,000 club members in the state of New York. Along with the organization’s commendation and the $1,000 scholarship it includes, he also received a legislative resolution by Senator Squadron, who ducked out of a major strategy conference among Democratic senators a few weeks ago to present the award in person. Rivera, who attends La Salle Academy in the East Village, was named “Youth of the Year” because of his efforts in giving back to his community, one of which involved establishing extended hours at his local Boys’ and Girls’ Club.

“I was like, ‘I’ll never be youth of the month, I’ll never be youth of the year.’” Rivera said, explaining that he applied for the award only after his mentors at the center urged him to so. “[They] made it so that I feel important, that I have a key part in this world, and that’s what they teach every one of us.”

Recently, Rivera was presented with a Certificate of Merit by Governor David Paterson when he visited the government offices in Albany. He also met with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Earlier this year, he won a $2,000 scholarship from Charles Schwab’s “Money Matters” program, and appeared on “Good Morning America” with the president of the Charles Schwab foundation.

The awards come largely because of his involvement in his community. Rivera fought for extended operating hours for the Lower East Side Boys’ and Girls’ Club center to which he belongs, in order to provide a safe place for teenagers after school and during the evening. Many parents of the teenagers who attend the center work late nights, and Rivera said that to many of his peers, the local center is like “a second home.”

“Chris represents the next generation of leadership in our community,” Squadron said in an e-mail. “What makes Chris so special is not just that he has grown with the Educational Alliance but that he gives so much back to our community.”

Winning the New York State “Youth of the Year” award puts Rivera in the running for the national award, which includes a $15,000 college scholarship, granted by President Barack Obama at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. Rivera will be attending Fordham University in the fall.