As a civic leader who also fences, 17-year-old Townsend Harris High School senior Jason Mills is a modern-day Julius Caesar of sorts – only with more mock trials and less arrogance and conspiracy.
The Cambria Heights resident currently leads his school in the hallways as student body president and on the fencing strip as captain of the fencing team. He also prosecutes and defends for Townsend Harris’ mock trial team and volunteers at a nearby hospital. When he’s not busy with schoolwork, applying to colleges and participating in his extracurricular activities, he likes to take it easy by catching his favorite TV shows.
Mills chose to pursue the post of student body president out of a desire to continue what he started as vice president of his class during his junior year.
“I wanted to ensure that the students’ voices were heard the next year,” he said. “I really love Townsend Harris, working with the administration and getting things done.”
During his campaign, Mills did a lot of talking with students directly in order to attain their votes.
“I basically had to do face-to-face work, meeting with students during their lunch periods and shaking hands.”
As student body president, one of Mills’ responsibilities is to lead the Student Union, the organizational body that runs most of the school-wide events and clubs. Part of this requires him to make sure that things run smoothly at the Union’s regular meetings.
Mills is also looking for new ways for students to communicate with him in order to get their concerns across on how to make Townsend Harris a better place.
One concern his peers recently came to him with had to do with the school’s dress policy, which he says many students find outdated, particularly in regard to the restrictions it places on the length of female students’ shorts and skirts.
In light of this, Mills took it upon himself to begin researching the school’s dress policy with an emphasis on when the regulations were established and for what reasons. After he is satisfied with the information he’s gathered, he plans on bringing it before the administration to ensure that students’ views are represented.
He says the biggest challenge about his job as president is not being able to do what everyone wants.
“Of course, being student body president, you’re not a principal,” he said. “You have a lot of influence, but there’s still a process. The hardest thing is being smart about how to get things done and being practical.”
Mills started fencing when he was a freshman, putting so much effort into improving that he became a starter the next year and now currently serves the team as captain. Townsend Harris has been Queens high school fencing champions ever since Mills’ freshman year and were third in the city his sophomore year. Individually, Mills earned fifth place honors in both last year’s season opener as well as the Novice Tournament.
While studying political science and economics with plans of going on to law school are the main elements factoring into where he’ll apply to college, he said he would definitely consider trying out for the fencing team should the institution have one.
He also crosses swords of wits through his participation on his school’s mock trial team as a prosecutor and defense attorney. Last year he helped Townsend Harris to its first New York City championship in over a decade. The team eventually went on to take third in the state tournament.
On weekends, Mills volunteers at the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Hospital in Manhasset. His responsibilities include ensuring patients are comfortable by providing water and other amenities in their rooms, helping transport patients in the rehabilitation wing and manning reception areas.
“I really do love people,” he said. “The best part about working at the hospital is coming in contact with the patients. They’re so grateful.”