HAGERSTOWN — A year full of frustrations and fulfilling moments is how Steven Wang described his time as the student representative to the Washington County Board of Education.
Wang, 18, said he thinks students are still left out of the loop in many regards.
He said he’s confident the seven elected board members value students’ input, “but it’s difficult when you only meet with the board members two times per month and there isn’t this type of back-and-forth dialogue.”
Student board members are not permitted to attend closed sessions and do not have voting rights, although Wang occasionally voiced an opinion or raised a hand during votes to signify where he stood.
An effort to gain at least partial voting rights on behalf of the Washington County Association of Student Councils was a focus of Wang’s year as the student rep.
He addressed the school board’s Policy Committee and the school board about the issue. He also talked to the Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly in January, asking the delegation to back legislation making the student rep a mandatory position. Delegation members tabled the matter, saying they wanted to get school board feedback.
The school board defeated partial voting rights by a 4-3 vote.
“We were very close,” Wang said. “I think we really raised the issue and got people thinking about the issue.”
Wang said he hopes he built a foundation for the next generation of student advocates to continue the fight for more student representation.
In the wake of the voting rights defeat, Wang proposed that the school board have a student advisory committee, but that proposal didn’t come to fruition either.
“It’s hard to get things done on the board, and I understand. It’s just part of the process,” Wang said.
Wang, valedictorian at North Hagerstown High School, said he learned just as much outside of the classroom as in the classroom during the last school year.
He realized how important the political process is, including the inner workings and political dynamics of a political body such as the school board, he said.
“I think that as a student, as a teenager, as an adolescent, I kind of became less naive about our democratic process as well,” Wang said.
“I think it was a very good experience. It’s like a bittersweet feeling to go. But at the same time, I’m going to take the lessons I learned from being on the board and apply it to the next chapter in my life,” Wang said.
His board experience has Wang aspiring to start his own business or work for a business that will serve as an agent for social change.
For now, he is getting ready to head to Cambridge, Mass., to study economics at Harvard College, which is Harvard University’s undergraduate program. He plans to minor in psychology and study French and Chinese.
Wang is the son of Sophie Han of Hagerstown and Hans Wang of Atlanta.