Southold High School student Kenji Fujita not only wants to make sure his fellow classmates have a good time during their senior year, he also has a plan to improve the quality of life for everyone at the school.
Kenji, 17, has been elected student council president by his peers after launching a campaign to have new water fountains capable of filling water bottles installed in the school. His position also allows him to serve on the school board. (Shoreham-Wading River is the only other North Fork school district to allow a student to serve on a school board as a non-voting member.)
In addition to his eco-friendly plan, Kenji has proposed that each student receive a water bottle imprinted with the school logo as a way to increase school pride.
After presenting his idea during his first school board meeting on Sept. 11, Kenji said he felt confident the water fountain plan will be completed this year.
“I’m almost positive the water fountains will be done by November,” he said during a recent interview. “I just did something I thought the students would like in the school.”
Kenji, who is school board president Paulette Ofrias’ nephew, is a high achiever involved with several sports teams, clubs and extracurricular activities. In addition to the student council, he participates in soccer, basketball, tennis, the National Honor Society, DECA, ROTC, robotics and the town’s youth bureau.
He also works part time at his family’s pharmacy and at North Fork Table & Inn.
Kenji stopped by our newsroom recently for an interview. The following was excerpted from that conversation.
Q: What was your first school board meeting like?
A: I don’t understand everything and I don’t get the entire process, yet, but I thought it was pretty cool. It’s not like student council. Student council is very informal, but we try to get as much done as possible. I was pleased with how they took everything under consideration. They’re open to the students, which is something each [community] should have — a school board that’s open to hearing what the students would like.
Q: What are your goals as student representative?
A: My main goal is to make sure all the students are satisfied. It’s a lot of work to plan dances and events around all the other extracurricular activities and sports tournaments but, in the end, offering a lot will pay off at the end of the year when students say, ‘I’m glad we had that student council.’
Q: What’s your advice for other students to have a good experience at Southold schools?
A: Take opportunities that present themselves. I tried the robotics club in ninth grade because some of my friends were on the team and I loved it. It has definitely opened my eyes to engineering as a possible future career. It’s really fun. Seeing the result every year is one of those things I love to watch. If you deny everything that comes at you, you’re not going to look back at your high school years with the same type of memories as the people who say ‘yes’ to opportunities. Of course, I want to sleep at night and wake up late. Pretty much, you have to want it. You can’t rely on other people to do it for you. You have to want to do it yourself. It does help having the support from my family and my friends but, in reality, it all comes down to how you’re going to do it and what you’re going to do.