Ritchie Torres, Herbert H. Lehman High School ’06: NY City Councilman
When City Councilman Ritchie Torres was a student at Lehman High School, the principal selected him for a program called “District Manager for a Day.” He shadowed and impressed former District Manager Jimmy Vacca by asking lots of questions and participating in meetings.
Ritchie did well in school and was engaged in his school community. After debating in the school’s moot court debate program, he learned the importance of understanding and investigating both sides of an issue when he was assigned a segregationist position on a simulation of the case Brown v. Board of Ed; Ritchie admits that this remains one of his most transformative experiences as a young politician. “I will confess to you that moot court is far more rigorous than deliberations on the City Council.”
Ritchie kept in touch with Vacca after starting college at New York University. But after a battle with depression caused by losing his stepfather and struggling with his sexuality– Ritchie came out in high school, but kept his sexuality to himself– he dropped out of school after his first year. Soon after, councilmember Vacca offered him a job as a constituent liaison where he tirelessly advocated for the people in his community.
After winning his race for City Council in 2013 at 25, Ritchie became both the youngest member of the council and the first gay Councilmember ever elected from the Bronx. As a Deputy Leader of the City Council, he is the only Freshman Councilmember to hold a leadership position. He also oversees the New York City Housing Authority in his position as Chair of the Council’s Committee on Public Housing. While he works to improve District 15 and its neighborhoods in any way he can, Ritchie is most passionate about affordable and public housing, police reform, school integration and youth civic engagement.