A charismatic student leader has emerged at one East Flatbush high school and his middle name is, coincidentally, Barrak.
Tall and slender, with a commanding presence, Qaim Barrak Wynter, a senior at Nazareth Regional High School, 475 East 57th Street, wowed members of Community Board 17, which he spoke at their December meeting.
The purpose of Wynter’s presence at the meeting was to garner support for his school’s Junior Statesmen of America (JSA) chapter, the “only inner city JSA in the entire country,” which he started at the beginning of this school year, Wynter told his listeners, gathered in the gymnasium at St. Therese of Lisieux, Troy Avenue and Avenue D.
JSA – the “largest student-run organization in the country,” Wynter noted -- has provided tremendous opportunities for him, he attested, telling board members that he had become involved in JSA during his freshman year in high school and, through the organization, had attended summer school at Princeton University, as well as numerous meetings where, with other politically-minded students, he has discussed significant issues.
Now, Wynter said, he is hoping that the organization – which includes among its alumni former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan -- will not only serve Nazareth students but that there will be a JSA chapter at every high school in East Flatbush within two years.
“It’s a great way for students who don’t have certain opportunities to grow,” Wynter asserted.
While, as a senior, he will no longer be at Nazareth should his dream be realized, “I want to set the seeds,” he told the group, “because I see potential in my chapter members. I want to work harder because I’ve seen the effect of having a new venue for kids to express themselves in a structured way.”
Overall, noted Wynter, the problem he has perceived among his peers is, “A lack of motivation. I’m a very fortunate kid. Thanks to a family that has had certain resources and opportunities provided for me, I’ve gotten to associate with kids across the country who attend the best high schools in the country and who are going to attend the best colleges in the world.
“The main difference I see between them and my peers is that they are motivated,” Wynter went on. “They have had certain influences – whether going to elite schools or various summer programs -- which have increased their knowledge and their love of learning. That’s what I want to do for other students in my community.
“I used to think I would have to wait till I was an adult to change things, but why not start now?” Wynter went on.
His efforts already appear to be bearing fruit. Since founding the Nazareth chapter of the organization in September, Wynter said, more and more students have joined up.
There are already 59 members, said Wynter, who told the board that the group is “gearing up” for JSA’s winter congress, which will be attended by some 1,300 students from around the U.S. As of the date of the meeting, he said, 27 Nazareth students are “committed” to attend the event where the attendees will be “proposing bills that actually could make it to the House of Representatives.”
To help them get to the winter congress, Wynter told the group, he is looking for the community’s help. To that end, he went on, he is doing outreach, hoping to encourage those who live and work in the neighborhood to sponsor his chapter’s efforts.
The board’s Youth Services Committee has already shown its support. They recently provided a grant to subsidize a group of students belonging to the Nazareth JSA to help them attend a weekend conference at Ball State University.
Those interested in sponsoring the Nazareth JSA chapter can send checks for that purpose to Nazareth Regional High School, 475 East 57th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11203-6010.
“You’ve got to be proud of young men standing tall,” noted CB 17 Second Vice Chairperson Terrence LaPierre after Wynter had finished speaking. “You don’t always find them that way. He could be president of the United States, and his name is Barrak.”