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Jason Amboo: never too young to be a leader

Meet...Jason Amboo
Jason Amboo, 14, is the youngest recipient of a Dorothy Richarson Award from NeighborWorks America, for demonstrating environmental stewardship, mobilizing his community to come together over common goals and mentoring other youth.

When most boys are 11 years old, they’re thinking about video games, sports and how to get out of chores. Not Jason Amboo. When he was playing tag with a few of his friends from the homework club run by Montgomery Housing Partnership (Silver Spring, MD), one of them tripped and cut himself on a piece of glass. And it led to amazing things.

Neighborworks-image-554“We started talking about it and all of the trash on the ground made us mad,” recalls Jason, now 14 and the youngest Community Leadership Institute participant in the history of NeighborWorks. “It looked bad, it wasn’t safe and it’s not good for the environment. I had the idea we should do something about it.”

It was Jason’s suggestion to form a “green team” to clean up the property and get others to join in. He brought the idea to a supervisor from MHP, which owns five of the 16 small apartment buildings for modest-income residents in what is known as the “Glenville Road cul-de-sac.” Jason, his younger brother and his mother moved to one of the buildings when he was nine years old. Early on – with his mother working long hours at her hair salon to support the family – he became a natural leader and mentor, taking his little brother Aven under his wing.

MHP responded to Jason’s initiative by assigning two VISTA volunteers to start and staff the Green Club. It piloted in 2011 and became a fully funded program in 2012. In that year alone, the club collected more than 200 pounds of litter and achieved a 92 percent resident-participation rate for its recycling program. In 2013, the club’s activities expanded to include a community garden, which produced 20 pounds of produce that year.

Today, Jason remains an active supporter of the Green Club and has volunteered 364 hours to help younger children in the homework-help program. He participates in the school choir, excels at football, loves math and science -- and already is thinking about other ways to be a mentor.

“I see little kids get bullied and I’d like to help prevent that,” he muses. “I bet if we all stepped up and spoke out, we could make a difference.”

2014 Dorothy Richardson Award Winners

Sharon Bagley: Turning Tragedy into Strength
Paul Bertha: From Bystander to ‘Upstander’
Fred Fife: Heart of the Community
Kenneth Grubbs: Teaching by Example
Chip Rogalinski: Responding to the ‘Call’
Marcy Tanger: A One-Person Green ‘Multiplier’
Gloria Zamudio: Be the Leader You Need

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