Smithsburg teen to give students a voice as Board of Ed student member

June 03, 2011|By TAYLOR ECKEL |
  • Smithsburg High School student Abdul Latif will be the new student member of the Washington County Board of Education in July. He plans to use social media to connect with fellow students.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

Abdul Latif is all about communication.

The 16-year-old rising senior at Smithsburg High School is eager to assume the duties of student member of the Washington County Board of Education and hopes to foster communication between board members and students.

"The role of the student member is to make student voices heard, to represent them in their views, in their experiences, and in what's going on in the schools," Abdul said.

Abdul was elected in April by the Washington County Association of Student Councils (WCASC), with his term officially starting in July. He will replace current student member Steven Wang, a graduating senior at North Hagerstown High School.

Abdul said he has several plans to increase communication between county students and the school board.

"I'm planning on starting a mailing list to all of the schools and encouraging students to join so I can communicate with them," Abdul said.

 "For example, after board meetings I will communicate to students exactly what went on and ask for suggestions"

 In addition to creating a mailing list, Abdul plans on making regular visits to all of the county schools to meet with each school's Student Government Association and student body. He also plans to use social media such as Twitter to connect with his peers.

"I do care deeply about what everybody says," he said. "I like listening a lot, and I want to convey what other students are saying."

Abdul said he anticipates that he will face the controversial issue of granting the student member of the school board limited voting rights.

"I fully intend to continue to fight for that, and I know that there is a lot of resistance to that. Hopefully, I will be able to work with the board members."

Abdul said he believes that one reason board members are reluctant to grant the student member partial voting rights is due to their concern that the student member will not represent all of the schools in the county. He said this concern is because not all county schools participate in the student councils association.

"I think it's an awareness issue; most people don't know about it. As a student member of the board, I want to go to as many schools as possible and encourage participation," Abdul said, adding, "Smithsburg is involved, North High is involved, and South High has just as much to say even though they're not (involved)."

Abdul said even if he cannot secure voting rights for himself, he hopes to secure them for student board members in future years.

"Whether or not there are voting rights, I intend to make student views heard," he said.

Abdul said he will be able to use both his public speaking experience and leadership experience as he serves in the role of student member of the school board.

He said he has been a member of Smithsburg's Student Government Association for three years, and that he had attended several student council association meetings when a friend encouraged him to run for the position of student member of the school board.

"I've always been interested in communication, and over the past few years I been involved in speech competitions," Abdul said.

 He added that he has been the Western Maryland District Champion in the American Legion Oratorical Contest the past two years, and he won this year's Future Business Leaders of America state speech competition.  

In addition to his experience in public speaking, Abdul is involved in a range of extra-curricular activities and holds leadership roles in several of them. He said that he is the captain of his school's Academic Team, vice president of his mosque's youth program, and involved in Math Club, Link Crew and Debate Club, and is a member of the National Honor Society.

Abdul said he has not yet decide what do after high school.

"I'm keeping my options open," he said.

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