Public service runs deep in Brian Mealy’s blood.
The born-and-bred Mattituck resident serves on the Mattituck-Cutchogue Board of Education, the Eastern Suffolk BOCES board and Peconic Green Growth, mentors young people and tutors ESL through Literacy Suffolk.
That’s all on top of working as a clerk at Floyd Memorial Library and Peconic Landing in Greenport.
Mr. Mealy’s leadership in the community and efforts to promote diversity and inclusiveness in Southold Town has led the Anti-Bias Task Force to choose him as the 2018 recipient of the Helen Wright Prince Award.
“Brian is a true leader and role model,” ABTF co-chair Sonia Spar said in an interview Monday. “He really is someone who walks the walk. He makes our community better in every aspect, from the environment to education.”
After his election to the school board in 2016, Mr. Mealy helped reinstate its culture and diversity committee, which he now chairs. He said demographics at Mattituck High School have shifted since he graduated in 1995, when there were few Latino students. NYSED data shows that by 2017, Latinos accounted for 12 percent of the school’s student body. Working with the ABTF, Mr. Mealy has helped bring programs into Mattituck schools that promote welcoming environments and diversity.
“Even if we never make any systemic change, the fact that kids have a safe place to talk about their experiences is a positive thing,” he said.
He said that the district partnering with the ABTF sets an example for other school districts. “It’s important in terms of how we treat women, how we treat people of color. Do we treat people fairly? Is there intrinsic bias? Are we aware of it? I’m tickled that we’re having those conversations,” he said.
Environmental issues are also important to Mr. Mealy, who worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the golden nematode program to study local crop damage. He presently serves on the board of Peconic Green Growth, a local organization dedicated to environmental protection and water quality.
“He’s young, but he’s an amazing person,” said task force member LeRoy Heyliger, adding that Mr. Mealy takes after his late parents, Otha and Dorothy.
“Because of my parents, I grew up being involved in the community,” Mr. Mealy said, recalling that his parents were involved with the ABTF, Community Action Southold Town and the Riverhead Salvation Army, among other local organizations, and that many family traditions, like distributing meals during the holidays, centered on community service.
The award was created in 2015 to posthumously honor Helen Wright Prince, who taught at the school that opened in 1949 at a migrant labor camp on Cox Lane in Cutchogue.
Mr. Mealy learned of his selection at work last week when Ms. Spar hand-delivered the news in a letter. “I thought it was a speeding ticket,” he said, laughing. “I opened it and just didn’t know what to say.”
Mr. Mealy sees Ms. Prince as an inspiration and is awed by how much she accomplished with limited resources. “It makes me want to redouble my efforts, to be a good community member, to be a conduit of people helping one another,” he said.
While discussing his accomplishments, Mr. Mealy acknowledged another hero, Martin Luther King Jr., and the concept of the “beloved community,” one of the tenets of Dr. King’s philosophy. “To me, it takes work to maintain [the beloved community.] Citizens should be involved politically, socially or just helping a neighbor. I want to get busy doing that work,” he said.
Mr. Mealy, who wears a blue ABTF ribbon every day, described his selection for the award as both joyful and sobering. “I’ve had great opportunities, and now I want to create opportunities for others,” he said.
An award ceremony will be held Thursday, Oct. 4, at 6 p.m. at Peconic Landing in Greenport. The event will feature keynote speaker Dr. Georgette Grier-Key and an art exhibit displaying the work of local elementary students.
Photo caption: Brian Mealy of Mattituck is the fourth recipient of the Southold Town Anti-Bias Task Force’s Helen Wright Prince Award. (Rachel Siford photo)