In his mission to serve his East Harlem neighbors, Mahfuzur Rahman, 20, accomplished some firsts: in 2015, he became the youngest member of his community board and, this summer, he became the youngest person to serve as vice president of the Taft Houses Resident Association.
Mr. Rahman’s community work, leadership skills, and academic success were recently recognized when he was named a 2018 NYCHA-CUNY Scholar, along with 22 other NYCHA residents. He received a Levine Family Scholarship, a $1,000 award for NYCHA residents attending The City College of New York for education-related expenses.
With two siblings in college and one applying to schools for 2019, additional money is a big help for his family of eight, especially since his mother hopes her children also get master’s degrees. Mr. Rahman said the scholarship is an important resource for NYCHA residents “because you may feel a bit of disdain that you could not have gone away for college, but you also feel satisfied that you have a place in New York, you have a place in your community, and that your community is going to support you, even in your educational endeavors.”
Community members supporting each other is important to Mr. Rahman, as he believes it’s necessary for progress. He sees himself as more than a neighbor, but as an advocate for people living in East Harlem. It’s why, after a few years of attending resident association meetings at his development, he decided to throw his name in the hat for the vice president position; he officially began the role in July.
“I realized that the RA has a really big role in facilitating tenant-to-NYCHA management conversations but also provides a support structure,” Mr. Rahman said. “The RA is on the ground, it knows a lot more about NYCHA than NYCHA may even know about themselves, like the needs of building six are different from building four.”
He’s also active outside of his development: East Harlemites may have seen him at Community Board 11 meetings, where he is vice chair of the Human Services Committee. He joined CB11 as a teenager in 2015. Neighbors probably also see him pedaling a Citi Bike on his commute to college. Last summer, he got into bike sharing as a Citi Bike Community Champion, informing NYCHA residents about the Citi Bike discount and leading monthly bike rides.
When he’s not out and about in his community, he’s exploring his many interests at City College. He hasn’t chosen a major yet, but is fascinated by psychology, political science, art history, and biology, all subjects he feels will help him in his future career in civil service. He plans to use the scholarship money to either pay for another class or study abroad. He’s leaning toward studying abroad to get him out of his comfort zone and help him grow as a leader.
“I want to rise to be a leader that doesn’t command people but works well with them to ensure that their needs are met so that they can enjoy themselves without the burden of poverty weighing them down,” Mr. Rahman said. “That’s the whole invention of NYCHA, to lift ourselves up, and I think my family is getting there and others are too.”
Whatever he does in the future, he knows it will be something of service to his community -- as well as the “big, bright world waiting for me.”
To learn more about the NYCHA-CUNY Resident Scholarship, click here.
To see the full list of 2018 NYCHA-CUNY Scholars, click here.