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10-Year-Old Ridgewood Activist Is Raising Funds to Help Classmates Afford Graduation Dues

10-Year-Old Ridgewood Activist Is Raising Funds to Help Classmates Afford Graduation Dues

Jacob Altamirano is involved in several other philanthropic causes as well, raising money for relief in Puerto Rico and to cover pediatric cancer patients’ medical costs.

Jacob Altamirano, a 10-year-old fifth grader from Ridgewood, has a long history of fundraising for different causes and helping his mom, Connie Altamirano, travel to Albany to speak to senators about issues facing New York today. Jacob's most recent effort includes working with his local California Pizza Kitchen to help his fifth grade classmates cover their graduation dues. Jacob has raised $4,000 so far, half of his goal, which he hopes to meet by June. 

“We didn’t have enough money to pay graduation dues, so then it hit me that…what if other people don’t have money to pay the dues, or what if they don’t have a mom or a dad, or what if they’re in a bad situation?" Jacob explains. "So I started working in California Pizza Kitchen so I could make money for all of the students.”

Jacob works at CPK for ten hours per month, he says, and helps hand out menus, crayons, kids' menus, and more. He explains his cause to customers and asks if they would donate 20 percent of their bill to his school. According to California Pizza Kitchen, Connie Altamirano reports, Jacob brings in thousands of dollars in business each month. He also travels door to door in Queens to raise awareness of his cause, and Connie helps raise awareness through her social media platforms. 

“He’s a public servant,” Connie says. “He’s always doing something, making sure people are safe. He [inspires people] to fundraise. And I think that’s what we need to see more of–I think that’s what has to resonate throughout the community. This is how you teach empathy. This is how you teach humanitarianism. You have to help each other–‘today for you, tomorrow for me.’”

Jacob will graduate with the rest of his classmates this June and hopes to attend I.S. 73, the Frank Sansivieri Intermediate School, in Maspeth this coming fall. He will hear back from the middle schools he has applied to in March.

José Luis Jiménez, Jacob's current principal at P.S. 290Q, says, "Jacob is the kind of student that does not hesitate to help others, always looking for ways that his actions could benefit the whole class in some way. This is leadership–when you're able to take in the needs of others and find a way to support them."

When asked how he believes other kids can fundraise for causes they support, Jacob suggested following his lead.

"Kids should try to partner up with a local restaurant or famous place. I’ve always gone to California Pizza Kitchen with my family. So that’s how I would tell other kids to start to do this," he says.

While his sister Jamie wants to become a doctor who helps families with lower incomes afford their medical services, Jacob isn't exactly sure what he wants to do when he gets older. But for now, he's going to continue helping others–recent projects include collecting water bottles to donate to people in Puerto Rico and to pediatric cancer patients, which will continue throughout the year. Doing good runs in the family: Connie spearheaded the effort to get Governor Andrew Cuomo to enact Erin's Law in New York, which requires public schools in the state to teach kids in kindergarten through eighth grade to recognize the signs of sexual abuse.

“Imagine if we had kids like Jacob in every community," Connie says. "That’s a very powerful thing to have. I know there are activists and advocates everywhere, and I think we have to focus on educating and empowering our future leaders.”

To learn more about Jacob and help him get to Washington, DC to represent his school in the Junior National Leaders Conference, visit his GoFundMe page.

Main Image: Jacob with his principal. Courtesy Connie Altamirano

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Jacqueline Neber

Author: Jacqueline Neber is a social journalism MA candidate at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. When she’s not reporting, you can find her petting someone else’s dog. See More

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