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Feb. 20, 2018

Part one of four: meet the Student Member of the Board (SMOB) candidates

by Nobline Yoo, Editor in Chief
The nominating convention will take place on Feb. 21 at Watkins Mill High School.
Karely Alcantara, a junior from Montgomery Blair, is running for SMOB. Courtesy of Karely Alcantara
Karely Alcantara, a junior from Montgomery Blair, is running for SMOB.

Karely Alcantara, sophomore at Montgomery Blair High School

Q: What is the biggest reason you are running as a candidate?
A: I see a lot of students whose voices aren't being heard. When I was campaigning at Blair, a lot of the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) students who have been in the country for less than six months told me about how they were receiving tests that were in English and were failing, because they didn't understand what was on the test. This factor plays a big role in the achievement gap, so this is something that I am passionate about. I want to make sure everyone has an equal chance at being successful in their time at Montgomery County and in their high school career.

Q: How would you describe yourself?
A: I'm determined, honest, outgoing, outspoken and clever.

Q: Why should you become the Student Member of the Board (SMOB) as opposed to the other candidates?
A: I understand most of the students and where they're coming from. I came from Mexico, so I didn't have the same learning experience as everyone else, and I didn't have the same chances. I remember as a little girl I used to have to take care of my brother until my mom came home, because she had to work really far away. I know the struggles Montgomery County has had. I also speak Spanish, which helps me better communicate with other students.

Q: What is your greatest strength and weakness?
A: My biggest strength is that I am very determined, and if I see something that I want, I will strive to go get it. And that plays a really big factor in my campaign, because if a student tells me that something needs to get done, I will make sure it gets done. A weakness would be that I can be very independent at times. Sometimes, I'll want to be alone for a few days.

Q: How is Matt Post doing?
A: I think that Matt Post is a wonderful SMOB; however his platform hasn't reached a lot of students. I was talking to ESOL kids, and they had no idea who Matt Post was. Matt Post doesn't really come to down-county schools compared to up-county. I feel like a SMOB should be contributing an equal amount of time to all schools.

Q: What's one issue that you see that affects high school students deeply and how would you try to solve it?
A: Blair is the biggest school in Montgomery County, and overcrowding is one of the factors that plays a role in the achievement gap. Sometimes, if you need help but there are 30 of you, the teacher's not going to be able to get to everyone. That should change. To fix it, I would come up with new organizations and programs. If you need help with your homework, but your teacher can't get to you, there should be a program to help you with that.

Q: What is your message?
A: We have seen some issues in our government and in our education, and a lot of students aren't aware that their voice can make a huge impact on so many things. Just one person speaking up can cause two more people and then three more people to speak up. That's what I want to try to spread with my candidacy. If I'm elected, those students will know that they have a voice, that they can use it, that I am here to represent them, and that I am here to help them 100 percent of the way.
Adrian Andriessens, a junior from Richard Montgomery, is running for SMOB. Courtesy of Adrian Andriessens
Adrian Andriessens, a junior from Richard Montgomery, is running for SMOB.

Adrian Andriessens, junior at Richard Montgomery High School

Q: What is the biggest reason you are running as a candidate?
A: We need positive, adequate change in the county. For so long, we've been promised, but not delivered. We always hear about closing the achievement gap, providing our students with adequate mental health, changing nutritions at our schools, and yet, no one seems to do it. I got sick and tired of it and decided that I'm going to take it into my own hands and make positive change for our county.

Q: How would you describe yourself?
A: I'm open-minded, determined, ambitious, and driven.

Q: Why should you become SMOB as opposed to the other candidates?
A: We need to close the achievement gap; we've been talking about it for too long. I was in ESOL when I first arrived here, because I came overseas from Belgium. So, I understand the needs of the ESOL students, and I understand how the system is broken. The teachers see you as a lost cause, which is completely wrong, because we are one county regardless of where we come from, and that really marked me. I decided to run to change the upper county.

Q: What is your greatest strength and weakness?
A: I'm open-minded, and I love talking to people from various walks of life. Throughout the past couple of years in the county, I've been working with the Executive Board, the SMOB Advisory Board, and MSP (Minority Scholars Program), so I understand the county's needs, and I can implement adequate change to resolve those needs. One of my downsides is that I'm almost too invested in the county. If I lose the election, it will be personal to me, because I want to see Montgomery County progress.

Q: If you are not elected to become SMOB, how will that affect Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS)?
A: Regardless of the outcome of the election, I will still be fighting for MCPS. I will still be on the Executive Board and the SMOB Advisory Board as a Minority Scholars Program leader. Our mission will still be driven into MCPS through the work of our new SMOB, who I will be closely working with. Our goal is a better life for our students, not to win an election.

Q: What's one issue that you see that affects high school students deeply and how would you try to solve it?
A: One area that crucially affects our student body in high school is mental health. According to recent studies, one in fifty students suffers a mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety. Those numbers are way too high for our county. We need to implement successful teacher training so that students who feel the need to speak to a counselor, but cannot, have that opportunity to do so. We also need to reform our health curriculum to be more up to date with 21st-century problems.

Q: What is your message?
A: Regardless who you are, your age, your ethnicity, or your gender, follow your passions in life; do what you want to do. Every day above the ground is a great day.
Georgia Broitman, a junior from Albert Einstein, is running for SMOB.
Courtesy of Georgia Broitman
Georgia Broitman, a junior from Albert Einstein, is running for SMOB.

Georgia Broitman, junior at Albert Einstein High School

Q: What is the biggest reason you are running as a candidate?
A: Growing up in Montgomery County, I've seen fewer female candidates get to the forefront of the race and become SMOB, and that's even more true for the down county. I was inspired by my classmates and friends to run. I want to inspire future leaders from my school and the down county.

Q: How would you describe yourself?
A: I'm spirited, hard-working, determined, friendly and athletic.

Q: Why should you become SMOB as opposed to the other candidates?
A: I really feel like Montgomery County needs more representation from the down county to advocate for the needs of the down county. I have privileges that other people don't have, so I think there are other candidates that could represent the county well, but, I think that I, as someone who grew up in the down county, see the inequalities between schools, and I think that perspective and the female perspective needs to be brought to the table.

Q: What is your greatest strength and weakness?
A: I can connect well with people. Playing on sports teams has helped and taught me a lot about communication and forming relationships with people. I would like to have focus groups to stay connected with people around the county. In terms of weaknesses, sometimes, I have trouble saying "no." I'm involved in a lot of things, and I always want to do more, and I often do not set a limit on myself, which can get me a bit over my head and add a lot of stress.

Q: If you are not elected to become SMOB, how will that affect MCPS?
A: I think this year, there are a lot of other good candidates. I honestly really support Ananya. I think she's very qualified, and I hope she goes far, but I hope that whoever gets elected will be open to and consider other candidates' ideas. If I am not elected, I think there are still many other opportunities to be involved in the community to make change in Montgomery County.

Q: What's one issue that you see that affects high school students deeply and how would you try to solve it?
A: One of the things I talked about with Matt Post was that reports of sexual harassment in high school are significantly lower than in elementary and middle school, which I found really surprising. But I think it's something that should no be tolerated. You know, not everyone wants to report that when something happens, but Title IX is there so that your school cannot retaliate when you report that kind of thing. A female in that role would be really good for young girls and students.

My friend and I are both affected by scoliosis, so one of the unique things in my platform is that I would advocate for scoliosis screening to protect and benefit kids who don't have the opportunity to go to the doctor for early diagnosis to prevent late treatment so that they don't have to have invasive surgery.

Q: What is your message?
A: It's up to the students to make their own decision. I think that we're stronger as a county together. I would encourage the people to be involved and educated.
Connor Dorsey, a sophomore from Poolesville, is running for SMOB. Courtesy of Connor Dorsey
Connor Dorsey, a sophomore from Poolesville, is running for SMOB.

Connor Dorsey, sophomore at Poolesville High School

Q: What is the biggest reason you are running as a candidate?
A: The biggest reason I'm running as a candidate is to help fix our crumbling schools. Currently, our schools have a very big infrastructure problem. I'm running so we can increase the capital program budget and expand the program to cover all schools.

Q: How would you describe yourself?
A: It's not about how I want to describe myself; it's about how I want to work for the students in MCPS.

Q: Why should you become SMOB as opposed to the other candidates?
A: I have a history of working for the students whether it has been in the student government or outside the student government. I think it's very clear that I'm not running just to put something on the resume. I want to propose real solutions to the real issues.

Q: What is your greatest strength and weakness?
A: I am strong; I will represent the students' voice wholeheartedly to the best of my ability. However, like every person, I have weaknesses. Occasionally, it's hard for me to see a different viewpoint, so it takes a lot to convince me of something else.

Q: If you are not elected to become SMOB, how will that affect MCPS?
A: Frankly, there are other candidates running and they may be able to enact change; however, I believe that if I'm elected, I will be able to push for change much more efficiently, and it'll be much more possible if I'm elected.

Q: What's one issue that you see that affects high school students deeply and how would you try to solve it?
A: One issue is the achievement or opportunity gap. From day one, many students are sort of pushed off to the side. If I'm elected, I want to stop just preparing students to have the same life as every other student. I want to have career-ready classes and more cultural competency so that all students can have the opportunity for a good future for themselves and their family.

Q: What is your message?
A: I want to fight for you. I want to bring real change to help you, and I will bring this change if I'm elected SMOB. I will begin to have real solutions to real issues and not just run to boost my resume. I will work every day, every hour, every second to better the lives of all MCPS students.



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