The bright futures of several students were on display inside the office of Assemblymember Felix Ortiz, where he held his annual press briefing with his summer interns on Thursday, August 14.
The students took the floor to present the results of research they had conducted over seven weeks. The interns range from high school to college, with some just completing their undergraduate studies. Eighteen students interned throughout the summer and around 10 were present for the event.
“For 20 years, I’ve always had a group of students that work in my office,” said Ortiz. “What we try to do here is encourage them really to use their skills and learn things they can carry with them their whole lives. These students went out on the street talking to regular people. This isn’t about sitting in this office and just getting this information from books. They went directly to the people.”
The briefing was divided into four topics relevant to the community: legalization of marijuana, Sandy Relief Effort in Red Hook and Sunset Park, affordable housing and overcrowding in public schools.
Brooklyn College senior Jamell Henderson and Osiris Lopez, in his sophomore year at Cobble Hill High School, discussed marijuana legalization. “My job was to get the views on what District Attorney Ken Thompson feels about it,” said Henderson. “He stated this his office will focus more on gun violence versus first time offenders who are using marijuana.”
“We surveyed for up to nine days and out of 79 surveys we completed, 39 people said marijuana should be legalized for recreational purposes, 21 said no and 17 said for medical purposes only,” added Lopez.
Cristian Guevara of the Borough of Manhattan Community College and Mohamed Abuzied of the School for International Studies researched Sandy Relief. “One of the problems is that government assigned funds to FEMA to distribute in the community; however, the process was too slow,” said Guevara.
For affordable housing, Elijah Jeffers of the High School of Telecommunications Arts and Technology offered a solution to the issue of high rent. “District 51 is a very industrial neighborhood. There are over 38 warehouses and some are abandoned and non- functional,” he said. “My group decided our best bet was to suggest a bill that would convert these warehouses into housing.”
“The biggest problem with overcrowding is the zoning of public schools and the lack of attention to public schools,” added Victoria Wai, a sophomore at FDR High School, when discussing her topic.
“The mission is to give them the opportunity to do research and work on a project that they feel comfortable with, to ensure they can give us an opportunity to hear from them about their experience as well as give their recommendation based on the survey they conducted,” added Ortiz.