This article is the first part in a series of individual interviews with the three pre-Nominating Convention SMOB candidates. Candidates were interviewed by MoCo Student MCPS Editor Matthew Zipf and MoCo Student staff writer Kaamiya Hargis.
With SMOB Nominating Convention nearing, we set out to interview each of the candidates in order to gain a better sense of who they are as individuals and how their personal experiences have shaped their goals for the county.
Stephan Fornah-Ovaa, a junior at Watkins Mill High School, is one of the three students competing for the position of Student Member of the Board. Fornah-Ovaa has focused his platform on student feedback and engagement; visiting schools, listening to individuals, and recording their ideas and complaints have been the cornerstones of his campaign.
We were surprised by Fornah-Ovaa’s pure earnestness as a candidate. On greeting him at the start of lunch, we discovered that he came with no stickers, flyers, or handouts — just his raw ideas and a wide smile.
ZIPF: Some SGA members, whether at the school-level or countywide, run for office to strengthen their résumés. Are you different from candidates like that?
FORNAH-OVAA: I think that running for SMOB for your résumé is morally wrong, as SMOB is a public position, not a game you play with people. When it comes to college, I think you should take personal responsibility, rather than making important decisions that affect everyone just so you have a stronger résumé. Actions like that are personally and morally offensive to me.
HARGIS: Could you talk to us more about how you got involved in SGA and why you’re running for SMOB?
FORNAH-OVAA: Well, I was really interested in SGA at Watkins Mill High School because it seemed like there were a lot of cliques around the school… people tended to stay with their in-group. We didn’t have a general union of students. I was nominated to be the student administrator, and as such, I functioned as the bridge between students and staff. I suggested open lunch, which a lot of people seem to be in favor of, but I’ve also addressed smaller issues such as school dances and offering catered lunches instead of school lunches, as a lot of students don’t like school lunch. A lot of staff don’t either! As Student Administrator, I had to rep students. I’ve done this in the past, and I’m prepared to do this on a larger scale as SMOB.
HARGIS: You recently added a countywide pen pal program to your SMOB platform. What is that, and how would you implement it?
FORNAH-OVAA: Essentially, the program chooses students from multiple schools to correspond digitally. It’s totally voluntary… there would be SSL hours or [other kinds of] credits, but I don’t want this to be a mandatory thing. The main issue I want to tackle with this pen pal program is stopping student division. I feel like a lot of schools don’t know each other — in fact, I went to Sherwood last week, and the students there were telling me about a problem with students being allowed to smoke in the hallway, but students and SGA members at other schools weren’t aware of this. I felt like I should know as a SMOB candidate, but I can’t exactly respond all the time. The pen pal program would create the opportunity for better student-to-student and student-to-SGA communication.
ZIPF: As SMOB, what would your priorities in office be?
FORNAH-OVAA: Right now, technological innovation would be one of my highest priorities. Montgomery County is one of the best counties for education in the country — it’s not our place to be stuck in the past.
ZIPF: If you were to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
FORNAH-OVAA: Humble, compassionate, and dedicated.
[End of interview.]
After we finished the interview, Fornah-Ovaa walked through Richard Montgomery High School’s Main Street, sat down with individual students eating lunch, asked them about the challenges they face, and took the time to converse with each for a few minutes. He promises to be the SMOB who listens more than he talks, who cares more than he campaigns, and who stops at nothing to empower other students.
With only three students in the running for SMOB, only one candidate will not make it through the Nominating Convention and into the general elections, in which all MCPS middle and high school students vote.