SMOB candidate Q&A

April 27, 2009, midnight | By Emily Hsiao Kevin Teng | 12 years, 6 months ago

Get to know the candidates for 2009 Student Member of the Board

As April comes to a close, MCPS students are getting hyped up for another election of their own - Student Member of the Board (SMOB) elections. And of course, the most important thing to do before checking off the ballot on April 29 is to get to know the SMOB candidates. Since it might be difficult to reach the two candidates personally as they are busily campaigning around the county, Silver Chips Online has just the tool to help voters make the right choice on election day. In an exclusive Q&A, the candidates, juniors Tim Hwang of Thomas Wootton High School and Jiayi Yang of Richard Montgomery High School, reveal everything from their platforms and stands on important issues to their personally preferred movies and books.

Q: What are your five biggest strengths that will make you a good SMOB?


Photo: Juniors Jiayi Yang (left) and Tim Hwang (right) are the two candidates for 2009 Student Member of the Board (SMOB). Picture courtesy of Montgomery County Public Schools.

1. Experience: I have served as your Vice President and former Chief of Staff of MCR-SGA. I served as the Educational Liaison to the State Board of Education and served in numerous capacities in the Democratic Party's leadership including local, state, regional and national directorship positions. I've also served on theMCPS Curriculum Advisory Committee and worked on Race Relations on the Taskforce for Race and Social Issues. No other candidate has done more to actively fight for your rights or become active in politics throughout his career.

2. Personal relationships in politics and ability to change the culture of the Board: You need a SMOB who has a good working relationship with the County Council, the Maryland General Assembly and the United States Congress who will advocate for your rights, your budget and your interests.

3. Managerial ability: I've served as the CEO/President of my own non-profit organization with over 200 employees worldwide, over 500 volunteers and an expansive budget. I also serve as the National Director of Operations and Development for a political consulting firm and a coordinator for numerous political campaigns.

4. Good and practical grasp of the issues. The SMOB should be devoting their time to the big issues of the time: fighting for environmentally friendly schools, keeping the programs that benefit the students, closing the achievement gap, making students lives easier through a reduction in bureaucracy and a reform of the GT, LC and grading policy

5. Passion for the public education system: I believe in the fact that every student should have equal opportunity to learn and become successful in their lives. But to do that, we need a strong public education system and we need engaged and passionate people who love the public education system to be running our schools

1. Fresh and innovative ideas: I'm able to draw from a lot of diverse experiences and activities outside of the political realm. This allows me to develop new ideas and fresh perspectives. For example, I know what it is like to be a student who feels alienated from the SMOB. That leads me to the next [strength].

2. Ability to identify with students: I've worked with students with all sorts of interests, so I believe that enables me to effectively represent my constituents, the students. I want to ensure that it is the students' voices that I am bringing to the board, as the one board member specifically elected by the students, for the students.

3. Dedication: SMOB would be my number one, top priority. If elected, I would make sacrifices such as leaving the IB [International Baccalaureate] program at RM and taking a half-day courseload, among other schedule rearrangements. My devotion to the position would be absolutely essential to achieving the goals I have set.

4. Open-mindedness: I want to be able to get all the perspectives on an issue, to make sure I am most accurately representing my constituents.

5. Modesty: Humility is really important to me in a position of elected office. I want to emphasize that I am a student first and would be most loyal to the students. I won't forget that I have been a student ofMCPS for 11 years of my life.

Photo: Junior Tim Hwang, a student at Thomas Wootton High School, is one of the candidates for 2009 SMOB. Picture courtesy of Montgomery County Public Schools.

Q: What are your five biggest weaknesses that will hinder you from being a good SMOB?

1. Being on the leadership in the Democratic Party, I am undoubtedly very partisan which obviously has its drawbacks.

2. Some people describe me as somewhat demanding and assertive, qualities that may alienate certain prominent political members such as the teachers union, the administrators union or the SEIU [Service Employees International Union].

3. Many leaders are very well known for their big picture thinking - their visionary concepts that revolutionized the world. Unfortunately, I sometimes have a problem with having a big attention to details.

4. I am extremely critical of myself. I hold myself to high expectations and if I fail I am ultimately crushed even if it is a very small result.

5. I have never really had time to get heavily involved with school-sponsored activities. Constant calls to travel around the country for my non-profit organization, for the Democratic Party and different candidates have required me to abandon many of my jobs in school sponsored clubs and activities.

1. I'm not a morning person.

2. My car is a mess.

3. I'm brutally honest.

4. I am an English commentary's worst enemy.

5. I listen to Britney Spears. And I like it.

Q: What is the first thing you would do if you were elected to be SMOB?

TH: One day out from Election Day I will begin to completely restructure what is currently known as the SMOB Advisory Committee. I hope to build a sustainable organization that can handle the press, lobby for legislation and maintain a good relationship with all the schools. This would mean recruiting staff and representatives at every high school and middle school in the county, creating a coalition of club leaders across the county and setting up a sustainable online organization utilizing tools of communication to mobilize students and get quick feedback on current issues.

JY: The first thing I would do is set up my network of communication. I would ensure that the framework for my action plan for eliminating the communication gap is set up by the start of my term so no time is lost between being elected and keeping the students informed. I would continue with the grassroots representative system I have formed for my campaign. I [am] proud to say that I actually currently have at least one representative at all 25 high schools in Montgomery County Public Schools. In addition, I would make sure that I am reaching out to as many students as I can by utilizingFacebook (I wouldn't abandon my group as soon as I was elected), Twitter and my website at

Q: Who is your favorite politician?

Photo: Junior Jiayi Yang, a student at Richard Montgomery High School, is one of the candidates for 2009 SMOB. Picture courtesy of Montgomery County Public Schools.

TH: Barack H. Obama. ... Barack Obama is the one politician that was able to unite his party and is working to bring about change by changing the way politics works in Washington.

JY: Henry Clay and his American System.

Q: Who is your least favorite politician?

TH: I would probably have to say Rudy Giuliani or Rod Blagojevich. [Giuliani] is a man who completely hates the idea of public education and would like to see failed students fall into abject poverty and see to it that only a few number of students receive a world class education.Blagojevich is pretty self explanatory. Politics should be ethical - not run by people like Blagojevich.

JY: Bigoted senators such as Chris Buttars.

Q: Who is your role model?

TH: Muhammad Yunus. This man is the winner of the 2006 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his pioneer work in the field of microcredit. I would love to come up with the next innovative idea to revolutionize the way we fight poverty in this world by bringing capitalism to those who need it the most.

JY: Great philanthropists such as Rockefeller.

Q: Which famous person are you most similar to?

TH: I feel that I am most similar to Bill Gates ...for his ideas and his passion to help the needy. I want to bring innovative techniques to the office of the Student Member of the Board of Education and I want to utilize this position and my successes in order help the people most in need.

JY: I think if I had to choose, I identify most with the current SMOB, Q Malik. I think we share a lot of the same goals and desire to give back to our school district. In addition, just as she was at one point, I am running to be your student board member.

Q: Why did you choose to run for SMOB?

TH: I've moved from inner-city Lansing to inner-city Baltimore and finally to Montgomery County and I can attest to the fact that there is no county with a more diverse population, a stronger education system or a livelier culture than Montgomery County. I chose to run for SMOB ...because I believe that the next year will be hard, but will provide our county with the opportunity to become more efficient, acknowledge the influence of the students and change the way the politics of this county operates.

JY: I chose to run for SMOB out of a desire to make a difference in the school system I've gone through my entire life. Too often I've seen complacency or complaint without action over issues of student advocacy. We are very fortunate to attend schools in a county where theSMOB has a voice on the board, has voting rights and holds a real responsibility to advocate for and represent the students.

Photo: Hwang poses in front of the Capitol. Picture courtesy of Tim Hwang.

Q: In your opinion, what were the most successful actions of Quratul-Ann Malik in office? What were the least?

TH:Q ran on the platform of reducing school fees for all students. She delivered that promise to her constituents when the Parent's Coalition along with several groups including the Board of Education testified to the Montgomery County delegation regarding school fees. Thanks to her and many of our elected officials' efforts our school system is closer to a free public education.... Her least successful actions were in keeping up to date with the students. Though she actively sought out the opinions of several countySGA and state SGA members her search for communication stopped at the student leaders.

JY: Q has worked really hard to lower fees for students, especially in the current budget crisis. In addition, I worked with her to draft a bill officially allowing students the right to cell phones,iPods and other electronic devices during lunch. I love Q, so I don't want to bash her term, but I think one thing she could have done better is staying transparent and connected to the students.

Q: If you could do anything right now, what would you do?

TH: I'd probably be hanging out with some friends in DC. I never get tired of seeing and reminiscing in the presence of the men that we have cast in iron and set in stone.

JY: Be sworn in as your 32nd Student Member of the Montgomery County Board of Education.

Q: If you were on a deserted island, what three things would you bring?

TH: I'd probably bring a computer with satellite access to Internet (I'm sure some Blair Magnet students have figured out a way to do this!) to stay connected, myiPod to play some games and listen to some good music and a good magazine most likely Time or Newsweek to fill up my time. Though, this is assuming that food and water won't be a problem to find.

JY: 1. Food

2. Friends

3. A yacht

Q: What should students think as they read your name in the voting booth?

TH: Students should ask themselves: who advocates for the policies that I support? Who has a proven track record of serving me? And who has the ability to advocate for the things I want?

JY: "I know where I'm putting in my funny name vote."

Q: What is your favorite movie? TV show? Color? Animal? Car? Place? Book? Song? Restaurant? Food?

TH: Movie: V for Vendetta
TV Show: The West Wing, The Office, The Colbert Report
Color: Cerulean
Animal: That same dog that was in Bolt (the Disney Movie) or a Tiger
Car: Anything made by Ford, Chrysler or GM because in these trying times we need to support the American GDP by buying American-made goods.
Place: Capitol Hill
Book: A Hope in the Unseen - Ron Suskind (a book about a low income DC student rising through the crumbling public education system to go to an ivy league university) or Banker to the Poor - MuhammadYunus (a book about Muhammad Yunus's amazing journey in providing a bank for the poor)
Song: Stronger - Kanye West
Restaurant: Chipotle
Food: Probably a steak burrito with tomato, corn and lettuce; a number 10 meal at McDonald's; or a large cheese pizza at Domino's

Photo: Yang shows support for his high school with the Richard Montgomery mascot. Picture courtesy of Jiayi N. Yang for 2009 SMOB.

JY: Movie: Pulp Fiction
TV Show: The Office
Color: Green
Animal: Turtle
Car: Mazda Protege '98
Place: Bed
Book: Cracking the AP Calculus AB & BC Exams, 2009 Edition
Song: "Love Story" by Taylor Swift
Restaurant: Applebees
Food: Ice cream

Q: If you could be an animal (other than a human), which one would you be?

TH: Ranked as the #1 favorite animal by Animal Planet - I share the sentiments of other people in wanting to be a tiger. On the surface tigers are defensive, fierce and assertive animals but on the inside they are humbling, noble and judicious exactly the qualities that I would like to exhibit for the students of Montgomery County if elected as Student Member of the Board.

JY: A hawk, because I would have a great vision for where our schools need to go.

Q: Where would you go for the perfect vacation? What would you do there?

TH: I would most likely to go visit Rome, Constantinople (Istanbul), Alexandria, Cairo, Chang-An and Xi-an. These were the centers of civilization at the dawn of the human race and I think it would incredibly cool to visit the government capitals of the Ancient World. I would probably take in the sights, look at some artifacts and learn more about how these people ran their government. Of course, a vacation to Orlando in Disney World and Universal Studios wouldn't be bad either.

JY: I would go around the world in 80 days and do everything there is to do on this Earth.

Q: What do you aspire to be in the future after you graduate from high school?

TH: A college graduate. Many of us take going to college for granted but I hope to accomplish this feat, go on to law school and work in the public sector as a public servant.

JY: My future is uncertain but after I graduate from high school I'd like to attend some form of higher education. If that's not a possibility, I could become a rock star or win the lottery.

Q: Should Miley Cyrus choose Hannah Montana or Miley as her identity?

TH: Miley should be Miley because that is who she is, she is not putting on a show for anyone when she is Miley. Just like me being the SMOB is not putting on a show just to get elected. Politics isn't about the candidate it's about the people. This isn't a show - this is real and substantive ideas forMCPS.

JY: Hannah Montana is more attractive than Miley Cyrus!

For more information, please contact Tim Hwang at or visit his website; please contact Jiayi Yang at or visit his website.

Emily Hsiao. Emily is a Magnet senior who is extremely scared of pokes. She enjoys wasting her time watching Asian dramas, listening to Chinese music and reading novels late into the night. She loves to make her friends happy and doesn't mind when they laugh at her … More »

Kevin Teng. There are some things in which people believe. Some people believe in other people. I believe in meatloaf. I believe that we all should have fun eating whatever meatloaf we want to eat. Sorry, that was "Harold and Kumar"-esque. Life is pretty good because I'm … More »

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