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Q&A with SMOB Candidate Zachary Williams

SMOB candidate Zachary Williams is a junior at Montgomery Blair High School.

This article is the fourth part in a series of personal interviews with the six SMOB candidates for the 2015–2016 academic year. Candidates were interviewed by MoCo Student staff writers Kaamiya Hargis and Matthew Zipf. You can learn more about current SMOB Dahlia Huh, as well as SMOB elections and responsibilities here. All interviews have been edited for both length and clarity.

ZIPF: The diversity of Montgomery County, in both its opportunities and population, has translated to an open-minded approach to education. Can you share any specific ways in which the area has impacted who you are as a person?

The area actually has made me such a good person, especially being raised in this area. I go to Blair, one of the most diverse schools you could ever imagine, and I’ve been around RM too, and it’s really diverse too. Montgomery County allows you to see all these different opinions and views that you would never see.

Being a mixed kid, I already have some of those perspectives, but there’s also socioeconomic differences, and just so many different views to see. That’s actually why I wanted to run for SMOB, because I’ve seen all of these different views. I go to a magnet program, and a lot of those views aren’t shown or put into the classroom in the same way as others, and I’ve seen a lot of kids on the bottom. I really want to represent all of the students.

To get back to your question, being raised in this area has made me really open-minded, for one thing, because I’m very aware of issues that I wouldn’t necessarily be aware of, especially right now, I’m aware of a lot of issues going on in the Muslim community, a lot of issues going on with the feminist movement, a lot of issues going on with Ferguson. I think in other areas, those issues wouldn’t be talked about as much or as brought-up. I look at Blake, or maybe it’s BCC, where there’s this huge movement, they have these videos—definitely in Montgomery County there’s way more diversity, and it’s made me a more well-rounded and better person.

HARGIS: What drives your ambitions, both inside and outside of student government?

Well, my ambition is itself, it’s me. I’ve found that a lot of kids, if their goals come from their parents or the outside, then they fade very quickly. Especially when it comes to SMOB, my main goal is to help people and push for policies that I’ve seen a need for. But in terms of school and other things, my main drive is just wanting to put myself in a place where I have an education so I can turn around and help others. So basically, my passion is all from within.

ZIPF: What do you value most in a SMOB, and how will you embody those values?

What I value most in a SMOB is the simplistic aspect of what the SMOB represents. The SMOB is the amalgamation of all the students’ views, put into that place of power, and it gives you this insane opportunity to vote on things and bring things to the Board’s attention that normally they wouldn’t know because they’re not students.

The fact is that the SMOB has a real influence and a real way to help students that not many others can do. So I would say that what I value most in the position is the way to influence, but what I think would make the best SMOB is dedication. SMOB is a huge, huge commitment, and if you don’t know that, you shouldn’t sign up for it in the first place. Definitely what I value most is being willing to take off school, being dedicated to these issues and actually caring about them. So not even dedication, but compassion towards these issues that breeds dedication.

So what I like most about the position in general is that it gives you the opportunity to influence, and what I value most for an actual SMOB is legitimately caring about issues to the point that you’re dedicated.

HARGIS: The past five SMOBs have all been involved members of MCR-SGA. How would your experience compare to those of candidates who have been in the countywide student government?

Well, I’ve definitely battled with that. When I was first considering SMOB, I actually talked to Dahlia about this. I was really worried, because it’s turned into this all-MCR elitist group, where the SMOB comes directly from MCR. But I thought that, since I actually care about these issues and I’m really passionate, then I should at least give it a try and try to do something that I want to do. Campaigning is a really tough experience, so I’m definitely not just trying to move my career forward. I really saw this position, and I idolize it, and I saw, working with Dahlia, what she could do and how amazing everything she was doing was, especially with getting SMOB voting rights.

So I’ve worked with Dahlia and seen what the position is, so I understand the SMOB position and I understand a lot of what’s going on with the position. I have been to MCR meetings, and at the end of the day, none of the candidates are actually ready for the SMOB position. Just like with the presidential election, none of the presidential candidates are ready for the position of president. We all know a little right now, some of the candidates may know a little more than my little bit, but by the time I become a SMOB candidate, I will definitely have everything down. It’s a learning process, and I’m a hard-worker and a good learner. I’m very good in school, so I can definitely get acclimated to the position, as I’ve had leadership positions. I run a nonprofit at my school, and I’ve always been involved in government, so leadership is not an issue for me.

I would say that I have a weakness in that I may not be as well-versed on specific legislation as some other people deeply involved in MCR, but I am a great leader. I think the main purpose of the SMOB isn’t to be well-versed on all of these minutiae, but to have a general passion on all these issues and be willing to talk to students and stay active. That’s why I think I’d still be a good candidate, regardless of my lack of experience.

ZIPF: Finally, the best SMOBs leave behind a legacy (for instance, John Mannes formed the MoCo Student). What mark do you plan to leave on the county?

There’s been this huge issue with all of our secondary students that SMOBs disappear every year; it definitely isn’t true because the SMOB works all through the year, but there’s a decreased visibility. That’s no fault of the SMOB, it’s just because there isn’t a direct avenue to reach all of the students, because a lot of what happens is that it’s just the most hard-working, most dedicated to government students that actually interact with SMOB.

So I would definitely want to create something like a SMOB update that’s pushed to all secondary schools through the county. I want to have a monthly newsletter that’s pushed to all of the students, kind of like how you get those forms for instruments. I want to have that monthly so students can keep up with me, and I also want to have monthly meetings at different locations in the county.

My mark would be an update that doesn’t just last for my term, but instead I would create an infrastructure so that future SMOBs can continue to interact with students through the year, so students actually feel connected to their SMOB.

About The MoCo Student

In 2012, Student Member of the Board of Education John Mannes created a countywide press network to help build a conduit to share fresh and relevant information written by youth to the wider Montgomery County student body.

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