Exactly one year ago, in a building displaying banners of excellence and a room drenched with an aroma of expectations, I walked into this very same room, with a bead of trepidation making its way down my back, with the weight of responsibility and anticipation of an entire county on my shoulders. But in the course of this one year, my beliefs about the school system have not changed much. My belief that the hard work of teachers, staff, and administration and the open minds of a student body ready and willing to learn provides the fundamental engine of a world class education system, is just as strong, if not stronger today. So I am here today, a product of this school system, humbled by the opportunity to have served the students of Montgomery County and honored by the opportunity to have worked alongside the dedicated and passionate staff and members of the MCPS Board of Education.
It is with this belief and experience that I continue the tradition of passing on the torch to the next leader of the students. I have gotten to know Alan through his experience in Student Government, and just like all the student members before him, I am confident that he will be able to take on the burdens of responsibility and advocacy, cherish them, and reach new heights. I would be amiss if I did not mention and recognize Nick Maggio, as well, who gracefully ran against Alan in the past election. Both candidates provided strong leadership and experience and it serves as a testament to the strength and caliber of student leadership in our county.
I thank my family and friends for putting up with my ridiculous schedule as well as all of the great staff members and members of the Board office who have helped me learn and achieve every step of the way. And of course I would like to thank each and every one of my former colleagues on the Board of Education for providing me the opportunity to learn under your excellent leadership and example. We may not always have agreed on issues or practices, but the civil attitude and willingness to work together is something that is something to be rivaled in many other governmental organizations and decision making bodies.
Last year, I spoke of one of my friends, Jeff Sy. Jeff came here from very modest means. His father would drive 4 hours a day to his work to put food on the table and provide for a small two-bedroom apartment where Jeff could study with his two siblings. His mother barely spoke English and managed to feed him on the established welfare system. Despite all that, he was able to come to Montgomery County and study in the some of the best schools in the world, allowing him the opportunity to reach new heights never imagined by his parents. And today, I am proud to say that, against all odds, because of school systems like these, he is a proud graduate of MCPS schools and will be attending a top 20 college in the fall. Indicative of the changing demographics of our nation, Jeff’s parents traversed thousands of miles to raise a family in the best county in the nation to join hands with this system in its goal in providing the American Dream for every student.
As we look towards the future, MCPS is poised to take on new challenges – of increasingly difficult economic climates and a student population more diverse and more in need of aid than before. Jeff’s situation is not unique; rather it is becoming the norm in many of our communities throughout the county. And it seems as if public education, is being assaulted from all ends. Yet at the very same time, this generation is desperately grasping on to the hope that they will have a job, a career, a future, once they are of age and HOPING to maintain the same American Dream that previous generations have achieved. After having worked in the school system this part year and being a student of it for twelve, I am proud to say that MCPS has been at the forefront of this compelling need in our society, working to raise the bar, close the gap and revolutionizing MCPS to bring it into the 21st Century.
Throughout the year, our struggle to set high expectations and fight for the budget set the tone of this Board. And we have all learned that when we struggle together, when we strive to achieve together, and when we try and understand each other, we are able to accomplish great things. I have always believed that that democracy is not a spectator sport; rather it is an amalgamation of all its citizens within a constantly changing system requiring participation from every one of its members. And together with the teachers, students, parents, staff, all standing side by side, together we were able to organize, and together we were able to send a powerful message to our officials that education is not something to be looked down upon, and together we were able to spare MCPS from an impending catastrophe.
Through twitter, youtube, facebook, blogging, and SMOB 2.0 whether through town halls or school visits students capitalized on their ability to make a difference and join in on the discussions. And for the first time, through the “Campaign For Our Future” hundreds of students throughout the county were able to come together in a grassroots campaign to fight for full funding of our education. Consequently, the decision-making authorities are beginning to witness the power of the youth voice, as seen by the hundreds who packed the County Council’s Youth Town Hall and Community Forums that the Board held.
Last year, I ran for this position envisioning a particular school system. A school system unrestricted by race, gender, socio-economic status, or disability; A school system competitive with the rest of the world; A school system where no child is truly left behind. Consequently, one year ago, I said that I would try and bring together students from across the County to fight for a common purpose and empower this generation. One year ago, I said that we would work to make the school system a better place to learn and achieve. And one year ago, I said that we would work together to make MCPS a world-class school system for all of our students. While we have not achieved these goals as of now, I am confident that this Board and this system will be able to accomplish any goal that it sets for itself, and that with the collective resolve of parents, teachers, students, staff, and community, we can and we will achieve.