CJ (he/him), John Jay Senior High School ’21, The New School ’25 – Fundraising Intern
When I first began working with For the Many (formerly Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson), it was nearing the end of 2019 and I felt utterly hopeless. The news had consumed me and an indestructible pit had formed in my stomach that I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to get rid of. I was in my junior year of high school and had no idea what I was going to be able to do at my age.
After doing some research was when I found For the Many— way back before it was ever called that— and decided that I wanted to get involved. I wanted my actions to be more tangible. I wanted to feel that there was a possibility that I could cause concrete change. I arrived in August at the Poughkeepsie office. Lost, nervous, and grounded only by my desire for change, I had walked in to a circle of summer interns on their last day. The tables were set up with food, the interns had paused their laughing momentarily to look at me, and I was beginning to wonder if I had walked into the wrong room.
I was assured that I wasn’t by one Caitlin Munchick, someone who would become not only a sort of mentor for me, but a great friend as well. I had rarely broken out of my shell in such a way at this point, but I was nonetheless surprised by how warm the environment was. Interns began asking this shaking high schooler what made him decide to volunteer, where he came from, what he liked to do outside of school.
I knew then that I was going to continue volunteering with the organization. I had listened to Caitlin and Paul Mersfelder explain to me all of the victories that they had recently won— most notably at the time being the resolutions for Municipal IDs and in the passing of Green Light legislation. I was empowered by the fact that I had entered an environment where I could see changes being made in my own community. At the same time, I had grown up in a sheltered environment having gone to John Jay Senior High School in Fishkill, New York. We rarely talked about the pressing issues that many students actually cared about. Then again, the district rarely cared about doing what was right, they were more concerned with the conservative parents who had the school in a quasi chokehold.
Through For the Many, I became more aware of what privilege was. I had heard about it, I had known that— as a white male— I had it, but I wasn’t aware of the wide range it possessed. In learning about Green Light, I had thought about the fact that I never once had to think about whether or not I would be able to even apply for a driver’s license. In learning about Municipal IDs, I realized that I had never once thought about the fear that if I went to a doctor’s office, I could be denied access for having no identification tying me to the United States.
I’ll never forget being in the Poughkeepsie office building for the Winter 2019 Intern Orientation, hearing a story that I would hear multiple times to come by organizer Vanessa Cid. It is in no way my story to tell, so you won’t hear me recount it for you, but the sense of community that can come through our collective experiences as an organization is something that fuels a part of you that you didn’t always know existed. It helps you become aware, conscious. You wake up and realize that, for the years leading up to now, you have been completely asleep.
I knew that others in my community were struggling to find a place where they belonged in our ever-changing political environment, so when I got the chance to become an intern for the Spring 2020 fundraising drive, I knew that I would find other high schoolers. The internship started off with in-person meetings at Vassar College— right before COVID caused the first shutdowns— and I often felt a little overwhelmed being surrounded by college students. I quickly acclimated, however, and was excited to involve more high school students into the organization.
I had created a solid team of us and had felt the unity of our group strengthen. They were just as surprised as I had been back in 2019 of the concrete changes that we were making and the sense of community that came around being such like-minded people.
Even with the strength and people power (Paul, Caitlin, Rene, Vanessa, Diana, I hope you know I never forgot that phrase) that For the Many has come to establish, it is the younger generations that helps them flourish. When you high school students join, you are branching out to a new community, a new group of individuals looking for their own way to make a change. Bringing these conversations to places like John Jay, Ketcham, Poughkeepsie, and Beacon High Schools are all ways to challenge the districts that tell us that we can’t fight for what’s right (of course there are other high schools as well, don’t limit yourself to just those).
For the Many put me on the right path for my future. Now, I live in New York City where I attend the Eugene Lang College for Liberal Arts at the New School. I’ve entered an environment that prioritizes social justice, environmental sustainability, and community. Even with all that said, the fight for justice is never over. In one of my classes, we are working on a group project to challenge the New School for repeating their Land Acknowledgements to the Lenape Indigenous Tribes all the while offering nothing to the 3 Indigenous students whose land this once was. I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am, and have been able to find a space where we can challenge the institution we learn in, without For the Many.
People power forever and, as always, pass it to the left.