Last October, I could not contain my excitement to meet one of my personal heroes, New York State Senator Kirstin Gillibrand, who was coming to visit the Science Barge, an off-the-grid urban farm I worked at in Yonkers, New York. She is an influential voice for farmers in this country, and the grant she garnered for Groundwork Hudson Valley was bound to lift this food desert community to a place where fresh produce would be readily available.
We had dreams of expanding our farm stand to an entire market, opening a new rooftop greenhouse, piloting an urban farmer training program, doubling our number of CSA (community supported agriculture) shares, creating the opportunity for high school students to handle its operations, and much more.
Despite the excitement and flurry of activities during the visit, it was not Senator Gillibrand’s keynote address which stuck with me. It was the high school student Green Team member who made a lasting impression by relaying the importance of his experience in alleviating food insecurity and engaging the members of his community to make the city a better place.
A leader is someone who takes responsibility for enabling others to achieve their purpose in an uncertain world. In this moment I saw Senator Gillibrand as an inspirational congresswoman and role model. I saw myself as leader enabling others to envision a future where urban citizens can feed themselves through innovative soil-less sustainable farming. What was the most empowering though was seeing this student leader speak confidently about his sense of purpose he had found in greening Yonkers. I beamed with pride knowing that a long line of leaders had supported this young man in finding his voice, and that the line of leaders would continue as he encouraged others to take on duties as citizens.
Enabling others to achieve their purpose is a large responsibility and a daunting one, especially in a world with so many uncertainties. Leaders persist, however, and everyone from government representatives, to educators, to farmers, to students can be purposefully engaged in all parts of our democracy in order to change the places where we reside and the lives that we live.
The most important thing a leader can do is to create more leaders. I encourage everyone to find a mentor, be a mentor, and watch the cycle continue as your mentee influences even more lives. I cannot contain my excitement to be on board with Generation Citizen, an organization which over and over again takes on the responsibility to enable our youth to persevere and make our world a safer, more certain place.
-Leila Quinn, Greater Boston Program Associate