Working for Students

Drake+Smith+is+a+senior+at+Meade+High+School+and+the+student+member+of+the+AACPS+Board+of+Education.

Courtesy of Board of Education

Drake Smith is a senior at Meade High School and the student member of the AACPS Board of Education.

Zach McGrath, Staff Writer

Drake Smith has been an active member of the Anne Arundel County community for years. He has volunteered, worked with the NAACP, and been an active member of Meade High School. Smith is the current student member of the board of education (SMOB) since July of 2020 and his term will end in the summer of this year. He sat down with the Talon for an interview to look back on his career as a student and his time as SMOB. 

Note: Anything in parenthesis was added by the author for the readers’ information. 

For those who do not know, who are you and what do you do? 

Well, first my name is Drake Smith, and I am a senior at Meade High School in the IB diploma program, and I am the student member of the board of education, I come from a very loving family, I have a twin brother named Drew, I’m a big baseball guy, I love watching movies, and listening to music, like anyone else. I think when a lot of people hear Student Member of the Board of Education they may be intimidated, or that I may look down on them, but that isn’t the case at all. I like to think I’m a laid-back guy and if you watch the board reports I try to keep the mood light by cracking jokes. 

Why did you run for SMOB? 

So, my background is with the NAACP but let me backup a little bit. I’ve always been outspoken in class probably starting in 5th grade, I would always try to chime into the conversation even if I didn’t know all the answers. In middle school I get involved with extracurricular like model UN, soccer, and geography club. In baseball I pride myself being the cheerleader of the team, like when I’m waiting to bat, I always cheer on the team! They would call us the loudest twins on the team. During 10th grade I walked into the cafeteria on a random day in the fall to see the NAACP signing students up to vote. At the time I couldn’t vote but I still wanted to go up and talk because I had heard so much about them. Thurgood Marshall, my favorite historical figure, was a lawyer for the NAACP. I talked with them and said I plan to register to vote when I can, but what can I do to get involved. I was given a registration form for the Anne Arundel County NAACP youth and college division and that was really my golden ticket. After attending meetings, I ran to be vice president and I later became president when Dajuan Gay stepped down to become an Annapolis Alderman. As president I meet numerous government officials and meet my predecessor Rida Alvi. went to a few board meetings and saw her speak and I thought to myself that I could do that, so I ran. I ran on making real change because I was running against the CRASC (The County’s Student Government) President and Vice President and I wanted to run on a platform that made sense to the common student because I had the same experiences as the students I had done: Sports, extracurriculars, band, a magnate program, and I go to an old school building with a not so nice reputation so I knew what it was like to be on the short end of the stick and where the students were coming from. I also ran on getting students more aware and involved in student government. So that is why I ran for SMOB: it was where I saw I could make the most change. 

What has been your proudest moment as SMOB so far? 

My proudest moment was the Black Lives Matter resolution and the addition of Black Lives Matter into the legislative agenda because as an African American student I feel like that this is going to empower all students, they don’t have to feel like they have to hold their tongue and think to themselves, ‘should I speak up for myself?’ Yes, you should speak up yourself and the school system should speak up for you. That and the relationships I have built with the wonderful students I’ve meet that I would not have met if I were not SMOB. 

What student issue or issues do you care the most about and why? 

I don’t have one that is the most important to me over the other issues, but I really care about making sure student voices are heard. But, I think the most pressing issue currently is education in the Covid environment and if its really working and how we can make it work. 

How can students be a positive part of their community? 

That’s a great question, it’s actually one of the ones I get the most. What I say is get out there! If you see something that you think you can make a positive impact on just go for it. Whether that be through a club or a service activity. And if you school doesn’t offer something similar to what you want to do, then form a club and watch if grow! If you are truly passionate your passion will rub off on othersDefinitely join county-wide initiatives such as CRASC, Let’s Talk Justice and Service Learning. Get involved and don’t sit at your house. After Covid I hope a lot of students realize that sitting at your house playing Xbox and PS4 all day isn’t that exciting, you can only play so much 2k! Go out there and experience what AACPS can offer. It may sound cliché but just ask around where your community needs help. 

You have done numerous town halls with students, why do you do them and what gave you the idea for them? 

It’s a way to connect to students. Yes, a student can watch me at board meetings, email me or DM me. But nothing beats that face-to-face interaction. The virtual environment inspired me as well for these town halls. I never heard of a zoom call before the pandemic and thought to myself, that this is a real opportunity for students who didn’t have the ability to drive to a board meeting to get to know me and for me to get to know students. 

Who is your personal hero and why? 

My historical hero is Justice Thurgood Marshall because he is a Maryland native, and he took a legal system that wasn’t meant for people of color and he used it to go against the unjust laws and the unfair practices to make America truly live up to its oath, All men are created equal. I would say personally though, my heroes are my parents and grandparents who filled me with the ideals to learn more, to do better, and to help others. My parents would take my brother and I all over and it really got me exposed to other things. My grandparents told me stories of how rough they had and how they persevered to make their lives better for their children. And if they can do it, then I can do it. 

What quote do you live your life by? 

Dr. King said, everyone can be great, because everyone can serve. That’s truly the quote I live by because it’s so simple. It simplifies the definition of greatness. If you go up to a person and ask them what greatness is, they will say an inventor or someone who gave away all their money and other complicated things. There are only so many things you can invent, but Dr. King really simplified itEveryone can be great, because everyone can serve and that’s the quote I live life by. Also, I apply the golden rule to conflicts. Treat others the way you want to be treated. If I disagree with someone, I would want them to hear me out, so I give those who I disagree with the upmost levels of respect. 

What have you and the board of education done to fight the growing mental health crisis in the school system? 

The school system always lets students know that mental health resources are available. In December, the school board got the mental health task force report and we have supported and given resources to the mental health task force. In the Jan. 6 board meeting I introduced a motion for a wellness survey which we haven’t had at all during this pandemic. While the board has its perspective, we hadn’t heard from the students directly in a while. We got the results yesterday and everything I had suspected was in the data. The number one concern for middle and high school students was academic stress, and then in a close second and third the pandemic and isolation, respectively. I realized, and this is something I have worked on during my time as SMOB, that limiting academic stress is something the board needs to get on top of. While academic stress has always been there and students have managed, we haven’t had a pandemic on top of it. The school board can’t make Covid go away and we can’t solve the isolation issue as long as we are virtual, but we can limit academic stress. Students are struggling to learn because there is so much more stuff going on. We need to cut out all the extra noise and focus on the important fundamentals. We need to make sure students are thriving mentally. I am not in favor of putting academics over mental health, but I think we can still have both, we just need to relook our current system. 

The number one concern for middle and high school students was academic stress, and then in a close second and third the pandemic and isolation, respectively. I realized, and this is something I have worked on during my time as SMOB, that limiting academic stress is something the board needs to get on top of. While academic stress has always been there and students have managed, we haven’t had a pandemic on top of it. The school board can’t make Covid go away and we can’t solve the isolation issue as long as we are virtual, but we can limit academic stress.”

— Drake Smith

What advice do you have for students who many want to become SMOB? 

If a student wants to run, just run. You don’t need a fancy resume and you don’t need to have started a club. You just need the passion. Students aren’t going to elect someone who isn’t passionateSecond, pick out what you don’t like in the school system and what you feel like needs to be changed and make that your platform. Odds are if you don’t like a part of the school system someone else in the county has had the same feeling that it needs to be changed. Lastly be bold and creative, I don’t want the next SMOB to feel like they have to model after me or any SMOB in the past. You are the SMOB now, you do you. Be the SMOB you want to be. In seven words: be passionate, be bold, and be unique. These seven words will get you far. 

How do you want your time as SMOB to be remembered? 

Well, I don’t like thinking about that because I really enjoy the job and my term is halfway over. Legacy is really defined by other people so I would want them to say, Drake did what he ran on.’” 

What was the biggest challenge you faced as SMOB? 

In short, the pandemic. The pandemic has taken priority over other issues I wanted to get done. All through the fall reopening schools has been the primary, and sometimes only, topic discussed. We have had the health officer testify so many times he is like the 9th member of the board of education. The pandemic has definitely been the biggest challenge the board and I have faced. 

What Advice would you give to the next SMOB? 

First, I would give them the honest truth. It’s going to be hard, it’s going to beat you down, and you’re going to make mistakes. And that’s ok, it’s part of the job and its part of life. I can give you all the advice in the world but until you start doing it yourself you won’t feel comfortable. But I would say stay passionate and always stick to your own beliefs and if you stick to that you won’t fail. 

What else would you like our readers to know? 

I have two things, continue wearing a mask, socially distance and wash your hands. We are at war with this pandemic and we can’t let our guard down. Also reach out to me! The best part of my job is when students reach out to me. Follow me at twitter @drake_smob, Instagram @drake_smob, email me at dm[email protected], and join me at my SMOB google classroom (classroom code is ay6vtuh). Reach out to me about anything, I don’t care if it’s something very small and specific or something you have been thinking about for yearsA story I like to tell people is when a father reached out because his son couldn’t access Minecraft on his Chromebook because the software wouldn’t allow it. I reached out to some folks at the board office, they get it done in a week. Sometimes people message me saying that they have been trying to solve something for months or since the start of the pandemic and with my help they were able to get it done in a weekIt’s the small things that I enjoy helping people with. Really just reach out to me for anything. 

 

Follow Drake Smith at:

Twitter @drake_smob

Instagram @drake_smob

Email me at dm[email protected]

Join at my SMOB Google classroom (classroom code is ay6vtuh)