An internship-turned-life-long commitment to service. She may only be 17 years old, but so far for Akaysha Palmer, all is according to plan.
The recent high school grad is a dedicated volunteer at many organizations across the city - but this one in East Harlem holds a special place.
"For a long time, since I go to school in the city, I've been seeing a lot of homeless people on the trains, in the streets, by my school, and I always felt like you know, we've got to do more to help them," Palmer said.
It was that attitude that led the Bronx native to the New York Common Pantry, a food pantry and soup kitchen dedicated to those in need.
Palmer was hired as an intern, but stuck around long after it was over, volunteering whenever needed.
"Once you're homeless, you don't have a lot of pride, you don't have a lot of joy anymore and just seeing them here -- they have their joy back and their pride and it just makes you feel like you're doing the right thing," Palmer said.
Palmer has dedicated hundreds of hours over the last year.
She sorts and bags groceries for low-income seniors and serves hot meals to those struggling to put food on the table.
In 2017, she was one of thousands of volunteers who handed out 6 million meals – most of them to homeless New Yorkers.
"I think if you asked anyone here that works at the pantry, a smile comes to your face when you think of Akaysha. She's friendly, she's outgoing, and she's very committed. It's really motivational, really exciting to see someone like Akaysha engaged not just one or two times but to continue to come," said New York Common Pantry Executive Director Stephen Grimaldi.
Palmer says that motivation comes from the connections she has made with the pantry's guests and the idea that hard times could fall on anyone.
"You never know whose life you can impact or you never know what relationship you may form or anything that may happen, so I feel like you should come out and help people because it could be you one day, it could be your family. The roles could change," Palmer said.
So for helping to feed her homeless neighbors in need, Akaysha Palmer is our New Yorker of the Week.