LaGuardia Student John Bahia Brings Personal Experiences to Serving His Community
LaGuardia Community College student and Queens Community Board 2 member John Bahia is pictured (at right) at the TLC In Your Borough Outdoor Resource Fair, presented by NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission, on October 6, 2022. At left is Britney Riana Simpson, LaGuardia student and Civic Fellow, a program working with the LaGuardia External Affairs team. Photo provided by LaGuardia Community College/CUNY.
LONG ISLAND CITY, NY (January 23, 2023) — Community Boards in New York City offer local citizens the opportunity to share their voices and opinions on important community-related matters.
LaGuardia Community College/CUNY student John Bahia, age 21, is the youngest member of his local community board, Queens Community Board 2 (Queens CB2), which serves Sunnyside, Woodside and Long Island City, Queens. John says his experience on Queens CB2 has been rewarding so far.
“Queens has no shortage of stellar community leaders, including individuals like John Bahia. Despite his young age, John has proven his dedication to his neighbors in a number of ways, both through public service and his advocacy work in the non-profit realm, and I am deeply grateful for his leadership,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. “LaGuardia Community College, and Queens as a whole, is lucky to call John one of its own, and I look forward to seeing all that he will accomplish throughout his life of service.”
Community Boards serve as local representative bodies of city government. There are 59 community boards throughout New York City. Each board has 50 volunteer members appointed for two-year terms by the president of the respective borough, in consultation with New York City Council Members of the Board district. Responsibilities of a Community Board include reviewing land use proposals and zoning issues, meeting with city agencies about issues in the district, making recommendations for the city’s budget process to serve the needs of the district, and addressing other community concerns such as traffic to housing.
Council Member Julie Won says having a student serve on Queens CB2 offers an opportunity for diverse opinions to be heard in the community.
“I’m excited to see young people of color, like John Bahia, appointed to Queens Community Board 2, and it’s crucial that more LaGuardia Community College students apply to be voices for our neighbors,” said Won. “LaGuardia is home to more than 23,000 young scholars, with 88% students of color, and I encourage students to apply for membership of CB2 to have input on important issues like land use, transportation, and redistricting.”
Danielle Brecker, chairperson of Queens CB2 agrees with Won and says that John engages with the board and is always willing to share his perspective.
“A community board should be reflective of the full community so it can understand and serve the full community. That’s why the appointment of John Bahia to the board was so important. John embodies what a community board member should be,” Brecker said. “He always shows up for his community, organizes events, speaks out when necessary, provides support, and brings a fresh perspective. And he does it with energy, optimism, and deep commitment to our community.”
As a member of CB2, John has contributed to the discussions on matters concerning his community in Queens; however, John’s perspective also comes from his background as a child of an international family.
John was born and raised in the U.S. territory of Saipan, an island in the Pacific, where his Filipino parents worked as contract migrant workers. Later, he and his family moved to the Philippines. As a teenager, John moved, without his parents, to live with relatives in New York to continue his education. Then at age 17, John moved in with other relatives who lived in California where he completed his senior year of high school.
After high school, John enlisted in the U.S. Navy; he received an honorable discharge from bootcamp. He moved to Woodside, Queens and at age 20, enrolled at LaGuardia as a Liberal Arts: Social Science and Humanities major.
Bahia Finds Inspiration to Get Involved in His Community
“During the COVID-19 outbreak, I saw how things weren’t working for the average person in this country. Many of my neighbors lived in small homes, with little to no ability to isolate and quarantine if needed,” said John. “New York City is a rich city, and if it had distributed more resources to underserved communities, deaths could have been prevented. Healthcare should be proactive—not reactive—and universally accessible. If the U.S. had a better healthcare system before the pandemic—one that made it easier for people from all backgrounds to receive preventative care—perhaps fewer lives would have been lost during the pandemic. I felt compelled to get involved.”
John began seeking roles in community organizing. He got hired as a community affairs associate at a local non-profit, Woodside on the Move/ Youth on the Move.
Then when John learned about an opportunity to join his local community board, Queens CB2, he applied and was thrilled to be appointed. His term began in February 2022. Serving on Queens CB2 is proving to be a valuable educational venue for his interest in community organizing.
“I find the meetings very informative,” John said. “Through hearing reports from district elected officials like Councilmember Julie Won, I’m learning about the intersections of what they do and how young people can get involved. And it’s inspiring to hear members of the community, who attend the meetings, speak up when something affects themselves or their family.”
Issues that have come before Queens CB2 during John’s term have included redistricting, bike lanes, public transportation, land use and rezoning. “We review proposals from real estate developers and take votes on whether they’re able to move forward or not. We turned down a proposal for a new car dealership on Northern Boulevard because of a concern about car emissions,” said John.
Pursuing a college degree was something John decided to do to have more career options in life.
“LaGuardia is close to where I live in Woodside, the tuition is affordable, and its academic calendar allows me to complete my degree faster than if I was at a different college. Each semester at LaGuardia has two sessions so I can break up my courses and get more done,” said John. “While I chose LaGuardia primarily for practical reasons, I’ve enjoyed it more than I expected to. My professors have been great.”
John plans to graduate from LaGuardia in June 2023 and transfer to Columbia University as a nontraditional student. Other colleges he’s considering include NYU and Baruch. His future career goal is to work in nonprofit or government—either as a policy advocate or in community organizing.
Currently, John works as a communications coordinator and scheduler at The Office of Assemblymember Steven Raga, the first-ever Filipino American to be elected, in any office, in New York State History.
John’s career in public service is just beginning. His first term on Queens CB2 concludes in April 2024 and he plans to apply for reappointment.
“Thanks to LaGuardia, I’m on my way to earning the credentials that I’ll need to pursue the career I want,” John said. “With my college degree, I can get a position where I can shake things up that aren’t working and make positive changes.”
LaGuardia Community College (LAGCC), located in Long Island City, Queens, educates thousands of New Yorkers annually through degree, certificate, and continuing education programs. LaGuardia is a national voice on behalf of community colleges, where half of all U.S. college students study. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), the College reflects the legacy of our namesake, Fiorello H. LaGuardia, the former NYC mayor beloved for his championing the underserved. Since our doors opened in 1971, our programs regularly become national models for pushing boundaries to give people of all backgrounds access to a high quality, affordable college education.