Jamie Serruto loves to serve the community in his home town of Millburn.
The senior at Millburn High, who is also one of the 31 state-wide Student Ambassadors on the NJSIAA Student Athlete Advisory Council, is an Eagle Scout, and has volunteered in numerous community-related activities. He’s also been his Class President throughout high school, attended the American Legion Boys State government program, as well as a national student leadership conference.
“I see service as second nature,” said Jamie, who recently decided he will attend Fordham University in the fall. “We should wake up each day thinking how we can help other people and make a positive impact on our surroundings. Service enables me to meet new people, feel impactful, and recognize that I have given my day my all, and put my effort in.”
During the past year, he saw another opportunity to help his town, when a one-year unexpired term opened on the Millburn Township Board of Education. Having turned the required 18 years of age just 16 days before the November election, he had the distinction of being on the ballot the first time he was able to vote.
“I always wanted to run for office and help represent and assist people,” he said. “I think when I realized how much knowledge and varied views and opinions I had been exposed to and able to acquire, it was the right time for me to run for BOE because I could be an effective leader.”
Running unopposed, he received 2,438 votes, which was well over 90 percent of those cast. The result also made him the youngest current elected official in New Jersey. In the time since the election, he has been the subject of several news articles and television spots, including a live studio appearance on Fox News Channel.
He was officially sworn in at the school board’s reorganization meeting on Jan. 2, along with three others who were elected to full terms.
Public attendance at the meeting was larger than usual, mainly because a number of Jamie’s classmates were on hand. Their presence showed the dynamic that can be created when a student is directly involved in the decision-making process within the district.
“The student’s perspective is crucial because I go through it day-to-day,” Jamie said. “I’ve seen the ins and outs. I’m not making decisions blindly, and that’s what’s most exciting to me.”
He also credits the time he’s spent around the NJSIAA and it’s Student Athlete Advisory Council. The SAAC debuted starting with the 2018-19 school year, with Jamie, who plays golf, applying for and being chosen as one of the Student Ambassadors. From the very first meeting, he has been one of the most vocal and active members of the group.
He’s also used his work with the SAAC and fellow student-athletes to help shape his own opinions and gain information. As an example, the Millburn BOE dealt with an issue during the fall when a home-schooled student wanted to wrestle for the high school team. NJSIAA policy is to leave the athletic eligibility of home schooled students in the hands of their local district. Jamie brought up the question at a November SAAC meeting, and a lively discussion followed. Even though the matter was decided before he joined the board, the student dialogue from that day will help him going forward should the topic come up again.
“I’ve picked up a lot from the NJSIAA,” he said. “The Ambassador program has been huge preparation. Anything to do with athletic policy, attendance and student life, the NJSIAA is really talking about the whole picture, not just athletics, and whether you are preparing, in the classroom or out on the playing field and practice, the NJSIAA and the Ambassador program has given me a whole-body view. It’s also allowed me to meet people from across the state that I can now bounce ideas off of and help lead to better decision making.”
Like so many other people in town, Alex Zaltsman, the Millburn Board of Education President, has known Jamie and his work for quite a while, and is looking forward to working with him over the course of his term.
“It’s mind-blowing given what he’s done for community and his level of involvement,” Zaltsman said. “I’m glad that he’s here with us. Having a student involved gives us the perspective of what it’s like to be in school now. We’re very fortunate to have that resource. He’s sort of everywhere in town, and we’re glad he chose to want to be a part of this group.”
“This is really awesome,” Jamie said of his new role on the school board. “I feel that I’m prepared for this. Together with my fellow board members, we can make a lot of important changes, and the student’s view can be valuable in the process.”