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Feb. 20, 2018

Part two 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.
Arteen Issagholian, a junior from Walt Whitman, is running for SMOB. Courtesy of Arteen Issagholian
Arteen Issagholian, a junior from Walt Whitman, is running for SMOB.

Arteen Issagholian, junior at Walt Whitman High School

Q: What is the biggest reason you are running as a candidate?
A: My biggest reason in running for Student Member of the Board is to promote social programs and activities for students who are feeling left out or got nothing else to do. I'm going to try to get every student to be both happy and comfortable with peers in their environment.

Q: How would you describe yourself?
A: I would describe myself as ambitious, dependable, hardworking, a team-player and very creative.

Q: Why should you become the Student Member of the Board (SMOB) as opposed to the other candidates?
A: Aside from the opinions of other candidate and what they're willing to promote, I'll try to really focus on creating and promoting programs to ensure that students who are feeling left out feel happy and comfortable.

Q: What is your greatest strength and weakness?
A: I'm really good at communication and mathematics. In terms of weakness, socially, sometimes I feel left out a little bit. Sometimes I might get a little awkward. Other than that, I'm a dependable, hardworking team player.

Q: If you are not elected to become SMOB, how will that affect Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS)?
A: If I wasn't elected, the changes I would've made would still function. I really want to promote the change to give students the opportunity to forge relationships by working hard, depending on the career path and interests of what you want to do in your life.

Q: What is your message?
A: Don't feel like you're left out amongst any group. Always be optimistic about yourself and in what you want to do. There are plenty of opportunities. Just go out there and try to enjoy your life.
Brian Kramer, a junior from Northwood, is running for SMOB. Courtesy of Brian Kramer
Brian Kramer, a junior from Northwood, is running for SMOB.

Brian Kramer, junior at Northwood High School

Q: What is the biggest reason you are running as a candidate?
A: I've been involved in advocacy for the past couple months now - I've been leading a group called the Northwood Representation program, and we've sought to bring equity to our school and the down-county consortium as a whole. As SMOB, I can do that on a larger scale and for everybody. The experiences that I've seen as Northwood are not exclusive to Northwood; there are other areas of the county that are not being served, and I want to try and get in there and change that, because I've seen it first hand and how it really impacts us.

Q: How would you describe yourself?
A: I would say that I'm active, connected, open, understanding, and experienced.

Q: Why should you become SMOB as opposed to the other candidates?
A: All of the candidates we have are great, but I feel like I have the experience and connections necessary. I can relate more to a lot of people than any other SMOB, because my background, what I've done and where I come from are a lot different and more relatable than a lot of SMOB's. I want to impact a lot of people's lives, and the SMOB has that unique potential.

Q: What is your greatest strength and weakness?
A: I will dedicate all of my time to SMOB; I would actually do the job and do the job well. I have a background in educational advocacy. I know the people. I know the Board. I know members of the county council. I've worked at the state and federal level. I'm not going to promise to do everything in one year. However, I'll do my best and work my hardest to use those connections. For weaknesses, the major one is that I take the bus everywhere, but I've gotten pretty good at it. Sometimes I can get bogged down by work, but I will be able to adjust.

Q: If you are not elected to become SMOB, how will that affect MCPS?
A: Regardless of who wins, I'm going to push for educational advocacy in public schools in Maryland, because all of the issues I'm running on are not just to get me elected. These are things we need to do. If I don't win, I'm going to work with the SMOB and encourage them to pick up some of my policies in order to make our school district better.

Q: What's one issue that you see that affects high school students deeply and how would you try to solve it?
A: Mental health and infrastructure, making sure the tests we take are essential rather than causing stress for absolutely no reason, making sure we have the school psychologists we need and deserve, making sure that our high school counselors with qualifications in mental health and awareness are not just there to make sure we pass the class but are actually helping us and making sure the environment we build is a good one that is both safe and adequate regardless of where you live.

Q: What is your message?
A: The main thing that we need to do is make sure that everybody knows about the SMOB. The person we elect needs to have the experience. Otherwise, you're going have someone who isn't doing anything beneficial, and then we're stuck. Regardless of who you vote for, make sure they have the experience and are talking about the issues that they care about.
Nimah Nayel, a junior from Richard Montgomery, is running for SMOB. Courtesy of Nimah Nayel
Nimah Nayel, a junior from Richard Montgomery, is running for SMOB.

Nimah Nayel, junior at Richard Montgomery High School

Q: What is the biggest reason you are running as a candidate?
A: There are a lot of people who aren't represented, and I'm part of that everyday. I can be the voice of those people. My policies are really coherent and are able to be implemented easily.

Q: How would you describe yourself?
A: I'm creative, passionate, direct, honest and dedicated.

Q: Why should you become SMOB as opposed to the other candidates?
A: The voice that I'm coming from is a perspective is really necessary to be included. I speak, first of all, on behalf of women. It's been three years since we've had a woman SMOB. Second of all, as a woman of color, I feel like my perspective and the perspective of others need to be heard, and I have the passion and dedication, and I'm ready to do that.

Q: What is your greatest strength and weakness?
A: My strength is that when I'm fixing something, I really just want to get it done. I have a targeted approach to looking at problems. I like to look at the root cause and analyze the solution. My weakness would be that sometimes, I try to get too much done at once and not succeed in any of them, and this is something that I'm trying to work on.

Q: What's one issue that you see that affects high school students deeply and how would you try to solve it?
A: The current literature list generally promotes western literature, but should change to include more diverse novels, such as Black, Asian, and indigenous novels by women. Another thing is fixing the bathroom stalls, which is an issue of communicating with school and custodial staff. I want to focus on things that can have long lasting effects but can also be implemented right now.

Q: What is your message?
A: I think it's important in the SMOB election to vote for the person who you feel will represent you the best, whose ideas you would like to see manifested, but not just their ideas, because their ideas are prone to change, but also the way that they problem-solve, look at solutions and handle things.
Daniel Perez, a junior from Northwood, is running for SMOB. Courtesy of MCPS
Daniel Perez, a junior from Northwood, is running for SMOB.

Daniel Perez, junior at Northwood High School

Q: What is the biggest reason you are running as a candidate?
A: I'm running for SMOB, because I believe that, for one, I'm in the DCC. It's kind of a mess for me, since I go to Northwood. We need some infrastructural changes. We need to start understanding that DCC can't just be the middle child. My main focus is not just infrastructure, but it's also: how are we getting our students prepared for a future career? How are we getting them prepared for college? I think that there are so many ESOL students that are not given the opportunity to go to college or university, and sometimes we undermine them, and I think that's not a good thing.

Q: How would you describe yourself?
A: I don't think of myself as anything – I'm just like everyone else. I'm always on my feet. I wouldn't say I'm clever, but I guess I could be quick to respond in a time of action.

Q: Why should you become SMOB as opposed to the other candidates?
A: I have been speaking with teachers, not just students, not just organizations. Teachers need to understand that I am also there for them. We shouldn't set up our students to fail. We need to start making that change. We need to start with understanding that students all have a different pace. They don't all have learning curves that I have. I think that we have to acknowledge those curves and address them as humanely as possible. I understand that systems will never be perfect. We won't ever have a perfect system.

Q: What is your greatest strength and weakness?
A: My biggest strength is that I'm able to communicate with students and teachers. I can have a conversation with them to address certain issues. Another thing is I can listen pretty well to them. It's never an issue for me to just start a conversation with someone. I can also encourage someone to take action. If there's a problem, we have to address it, either through groups or go all the way to Board of Education. To me, there is no limit.

I guess I have a lot of weaknesses, but if were to think of one, I can't go from one place to another, like if I had to go from here to Gaithersburg, I think it would take me quite some time. Access to transportation is always an issue.

Q: If you are not elected to become SMOB, how will that affect MCPS?
A: I think Montgomery County will continue as it is. We have infrastructural and bathroom issues, but I'm done with the clichés. Year after year, ever since, I believe, seventh grade, they've only spoken about lunch and how they want to put food trucks (which is impossible). Not only does that disadvantage low income families, but it will also be a health risk. Not every bathroom in Montgomery County will be perfect. There are some water fountains in Montgomery County that do need fixing, but that’s just another cliché – fixing things that really don't affect us academically.

We need to start enacting alternatives to learning. On my website, the Socratic Method is an amazing method we use in AP government, and I think we need to start implementing that in every classroom as much as we can, because the more questions we have, we can implement different ideas into the conversation.

Q: What's one issue that you see that affects high school students deeply and how would you try to solve it?
A: The stress that I've seen in juniors and seniors - they get anxious whenever they get closer to, I believe, January or February, once they start getting acceptance letters. I don’t think we should only focus on schools outside of the state or county. Obviously there are private colleges that are willing to give you more money. We need to start telling students that, 'hey, everyone's going to face college and face this opportunity.' Somehow we have to start thinking about colleges and careers. Montgomery College is an amazing community college. I think it's one of the best community colleges, and we shouldn't look down on it. Personally, we don't need to go to Princeton, or all of these Ivy League schools, to succeed. I think Montgomery College is a good foundation. I think that's a perfect way to start and we should not look at it as less.

Q: What is your message?
A: Montgomery County needs to understand that we are one community, we are one family. I know our needs may be great and different. But in the end, we are one county. We need to understand that if a brother or sister out in Walter Johnson or in Richard Montgomery or any other school - possibly even middle school - if they need help, then they need to be represented. I am willing to listen to you or whoever needs to be heard. It's time to stop with the clichés that will never affect us academically. I know that the through the DCC, the Northeastern consortium and the up-county, we may divide ourselves. I know there are many things we may call each other. But in the end, we have to acknowledge that we are all united.



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