I have devoted most of my career to giving teenagers the academic skills and civic virtues that they need in order to live lives of purpose and prosperity. But it hasn’t been a one-way street for me; in fact, one of the first lessons I learned as a teacher was that -- as W.B. Yeats writes -- “education is not the filling of a pail but rather the lighting of a fire.” If we can ignite the minds and hearts of young people, they will transform the world around them in surprising ways.
Protecting and supporting LGBT+ youth, who are more likely than their straight classmates to experience negative health outcomes, bullying, and violence. Every young person should feel like a valued, loved, and essential community member. I’ll work to bring queer, trans, and non-binary young people away from the margins and into an accepting environment. Most states already have laws targeted at bullying, but the amount of bullying has remained relatively stable over time; that’s because the only real way to tackle this issue is by improving school climates. I’ll partner with Communities United Against Hate and other pro-tolerance organizations to support local efforts and set a statewide example.
Organizing, rather than just mobilizing, young people. I’ll use my campaign and the soft authority of elected office to help students work on the issues they actually passionate about, along with the issues that most directly affect them. Adults are often eager to profit from the labor or energy of young people without listening to what they actually want. I spend all day listening to talented, thoughtful teenagers who are ready to contribute to society right now, and I’ll continue to take them seriously when I serve as a Delegate.
More funding for after-school activities, arts departments, and wrap-around services. When I was a student, I learned teamwork from running cross country, I learned to write and talk to strangers on my school newspaper, and I learned confidence in front of crowds from singing in choir. I don’t know that I’d have gotten the same opportunities in class. After-school activities give kids a sense of belonging and teach them lessons that you can’t learn from Wikipedia. After-school programming decisions generally happen at the county or school system level, but healthy state education funding makes this easier to accomplish.
School-based mental health and addiction resources. Stress levels for students are at an all-time high, and we need to model compassion and proactive care for young people. I’ll advocate for more funding for school-based mental health and addiction care providers so that young people can get help in a familiar, supportive environment.