COMMUNITY SERVICE: Orion Bustamante, 15, recently ended a three-month volunteer position at the Queens Public Library. During this time, he would help put away, label and sort returned items. He also helped kids, ranging from first to eighth grade, with their homework and tutored them.
Currently Orion is involved in an after-school program called Youth Empowerment through the Arts. He is also a member of Hour Teen, a program offered by the nonprofit agency Hour Children, which provides services to help formerly incarcerated mothers and their children rejoin the community. On May 18, Orion and other members of Hour Teen will be walking five miles in Central Park for the AIDS Walk New York.
A couple months ago Orion also participated as director of photography in Cinequest’s Picture the Possibilities program.
BACKGROUND: Orion was born in Las Vegas, raised in California and now lives in Long Island City. He is a freshman at LIC High School on the Honor Roll and participates in school activities such as Global Kids and National Junior Honor Society. He is in the process of joining the school’s lacrosse team and is also part of Hour Children’s Hour Mentoring Program.
“I have a wonderful mentor named Andrew who I go out with nearly every weekend and do stuff I’ve never done before,” he said.
Orion also enjoys going to Starbucks with his friends after school for a Frappuccino.
FAVORITE MEMORY: Orion’s favorite memory is the moment he got to see his father come home after being incarcerated for two years.
“[My favorite memory is] getting to see my dad for the first time in two years without having to drive eight hours upstate on a bus, going through metal detectors, and being surrounded by barbed wire fences and bars,” he said. “We made him a welcome home banner and hung it in our building’s hallway right by our front door.”
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Through the years, Orion said his biggest challenge was seeing his mom struggle with losing her job and having to move out of their home. His family of four then went on to live in a one-bedroom apartment, which ended up getting flooded.
“During all of this my dad was incarcerated, so my mom had to care for us herself. In spite of this all, I managed to balance my life,” he said. “My family, school life, social life and my personal life. It is sort of like a mailman with a lot of packages: he has his arms full and needs to keep his baggage stacked evenly to keep it from falling in the middle of the street.”
INSPIRATION: “What inspires me to do what I do is my mom,” Orion said. “She took care of me and my brother all by herself.”
The 15-year-old said he is inspired by his mother, who managed to buy a house at 19 and, although she didn’t finish college, she has a job at Goodwill Industries, where she has been promoted three times.
“She never gave up. At our worst times when we were in ruins she was the only one to keep us going every day,” he said. “She is what keeps us in order. I don’t know where we would be today without her. I am driven to make her proud and to be as great of a person as she is one day. I love her. She is my mother, the person who brought me into this world. She’s one of my best friends, role model, inspiration, and most important of all – my arrow. She is what holds me back only so that I could be launched into something great.”