A deep dive into the two candidates for the 46th Student Member of the Board
The race for the 46th Student Member of the Board Committee (SMOB) is on. The contenders – Sami Saeed and Yoseph Zerihun – are in the midst of campaign season: visiting schools, talking to students and posting on social media. Since the April 19 election is a little over a month away, here's a closer look into the policies and personalities of the two candidates. Watch the video here.
Sami Saeed – Change Now, Talk Later
Saeed, a current junior at Richard Montgomery High School (RMHS), has a plethora of experience in working to create change – whether that be presiding as RMHS's Student Government Association (SGA) President, working as a policy associate for the SMOB Advisory Council, or cooperating with students and county officials on Montgomery County's Commission on Youth and Children.
However, his public advocacy journey didn't begin until just a couple of years ago when he joined the debate team in his freshman year. There, Saeed discovered his passion for speaking, communicating and researching. "[Debate] really taught me how to put in that extra effort towards every single goal I had, but a bigger thing that it taught me and the reason I'm really here today is communication," Saeed says.
Determined to apply these skills to create change, Saeed ran for class and school president in his sophomore year. After winning both of these positions, Saeed brought taste-testing events to Richard Montgomery in an effort to deliver on his promise of improving school lunches. Now, he seeks to continue his advocacy journey as SMOB. "I was all focused on the issues in my school, but then I realized that the county is inequitable, that there are students going through hardships, and I feel like there have been a number of promises from our past leaders that have just gone unfilled…that was really the thing that pushed me to run," Saeed says.
With his history of following through, Saeed seeks to deliver. "I want to be that candidate that doesn't just make a bunch of promises, but I want to be that candidate that makes change," Saeed says. His campaign emulates this message with its motto: "Change Now. Talk Later."
Student representation is the one issue that Saeed deems to be the most important. "Ensuring every single student of 87,000 middle and high school students has equitable representation and an equal chance of being able to get into these [student-led organizations], you're going to see a lot of these problems begin to solve themselves," Saeed says. He believes that a more diverse group of students making policy will enable more equitable and representative legislation.
Saeed's goals as SMOB are divided into two categories: essential and innovative. The essential focuses encompass mental health, the opportunity gap and student representation; the innovative focuses include expanding access to information, curriculum reform and transportation equity. Read more about Saeed's policies on his website.
Whether debating or campaigning, Saeed keeps himself busy. But when he does have time, he loves to watch movies (His favorite is Apocalypse Now), learning about the characters and enveloping himself in their stories. In fact, he's watched nearly a thousand of them!
At its core, Saeed’s campaign is about empowering all students to become involved in the issues that matter to them. "I'm a student, just like you guys, I've been a student at Montgomery County Public Schools for 12 years, and I'm representing all of you – don't think of me as some sort of big leader," Saeed says. "I'm just like all of you and all of you can be leaders, every single one of you can be an advocate."
Yoseph Zerihun – Fighting for All
Zerihun's run for SMOB started in sixth grade when he attended his first-ever SMOB Nomination Convention. There, he realized that students have a powerful voice they can use to create meaningful impacts. "I saw that row of candidates there, and they were all talking about the issues in MCPS and they were passionate… I wasn't familiar with the fact that students really had that powerful student voice," Zerihun says.
Zerihun’s inspiration to run for SMOB was former SMOB Nate Tinbite, who first ran for the position in 2018. "He came from the DCC (Down County Consortium) and underrepresented schools, [but] he still made a name for himself – he really wanted to represent all people stray away from this typical, establishment group of small groups," Zerihun says.
Even though Tinbite didn't make it past the nomination convention that year, he became a source of inspiration for Zerihun. "In my middle school years, I was really set on that spot," Zerihun says. Zerihun then served on Redland Middle School's SGA, focusing on advocacy at the school level, representing students and making change.
In high school, however, Zerihun's desire for SMOB fizzled out. "I didn't think that I came from an area where a SMOB should come from and I didn't see myself being a typical SMOB," Zerihun says. Fortunately, support from his fellow students at Springbrook High School encouraged Zerihun to run.
Although his campaign began with a rocky start, Zerihun is giving it his all. "It is a tough election, but I'm trying to show with my campaign is that you don't need to have a ton of advocacy experience to be SMOB – it doesn't matter what past experience you have, as long as you have that fight, that passion and that will for advocacy: where there's a will there's a way," Zerihun says.
As SMOB, his focus would primarily be to address the ongoing opioid epidemic. "This is a really, really serious issue in the county, students are losing their lines over this, and it's something that should really be addressed," Zerihun says. To do so, he plans to initiate a task force and ensure better communication with students about the location of Narcan in school buildings. Read more about Zerihun's policy goals here.
Zerihun currently serves on Springbook's SGA executive board as the language coordinator, ensuring the translation of SGA materials for all students. Recently, he has also testified in front of the Board of Education on the boundary analysis of Woodward High School – watch Zerihun’s testifying process on his TikTok.
Outside of the SMOB election, Zerihun finds joy in baking and cooking – especially in making vegan cinnamon rolls and cookies. Eventually, Zerihun seeks to become a criminal defense attorney to help those who can't afford lawyers. "I always wanted to help the little guy, [in this election] I'm running because of the people down here," Zerihun says. "If there's one thing I want you to hear for me is that I'm fighting for all and I'm fighting for you."
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