SMOB candidate Harris Baylin is a sophomore at Wheaton High School.
This article is the second 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 the current SMOB, elections, and responsibilities here. All interviews have been edited for both length and clarity.
HARGIS: 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?
Well, coming from Cashell, from the NEC schools, I was able to get a feel for their population and how it changed from when I was in kindergarten to a much more diverse community by fifth grade. Then I transferred from fifth grade the NEC to the DCC to Argyle for their magnet technology courses. I stuck with it before going to Wheaton. Both Argyle and Wheaton are very diverse.
I think, diversity-wise, I am working more towards the minority because I am impacted greatly by minority schools. Wheaton is one of the smallest schools in the county and we have a tight-knit community, but working towards the minority is a key issue in my campaign.
ZIPF: What drives your ambitions, both inside and outside of student government?
Since I was little, I was determined. When I was younger, when I was about three years old, I was diagnosed with mitochondrial disorder which greatly affects all of my muscles. Doctors didn’t think I would ever be able to walk but I made the impossible possible and couple of months ago I was at a track meet. Determination is something that has driven me since I was little. If I want something, I go for it.
A couple of months ago, I was talking to my friend, and I asked, just for giggles because she goes to Magruder, with a completely different population than Wheaton, what her views on the county were, and she said the county was doing “fine.” I chuckled. I think Montgomery County could do better than fine. I think good isn’t good enough for our county. I think it has potential to be great and I have some changes in mind that could make the county better.
For example, our county is really focused on technology, and I have decided in recent weeks that technology is great, and I love how they’re implementing it in schools, but I think it could be better. I support the Bring-Your-Own-Device policy, in which basically the students bring their devices to school, and the people who don’t have devices, they’re supplied with them by the county. I’m in favor of that, in which budgeting will be less for technology, and we can put the budget into more useful areas such as the arts and athletics programs, where people can express themselves greater.
HARGIS: You say on your Facebook page that a platform would “hinder and hamper” you in your campaign. To what extent are your views on forming a platform related to your experience with student advocacy?
Yes. I feel as though the time restriction they gave me to do a platform was not feasible. In order to create a well-rounded platform and represent the student body fully, I have to actively engage and talk with students before any platform decisions should actually be made. It’s not the ideals of policymakers that I’m fighting for; it’s the ideals of the community.
I don’t have much student advocacy experience, but I think I learn the ropes pretty quickly. My ability to talk to people is really going to help me in this campaign because I will set up meetings with a ton of people in MCR just to get the hang of things. And then, even if I don’t win the SMOB election, I’m coming back next year to run with the help of MCR people, and I will still be active in MCR.
I have represented the students in numerous ways at both my school and at an MCR General Assembly that I went to a couple of months back in November where I discussed voting age being decreased so that sixteen-year-olds could vote for Board members, which would help the students, and I am in favor of that.
I also have advocated for students at my own school against teachers, regardless of what they may feel. My friend was sick for numerous days, and my teacher would not give him credit for an assignment because he hadn’t done it when he was sick. She said he could still do it anyway. I pointed out the fact that if he’s sick, his mental state is not up to par, and he should not have to turn in the assignment. I was advocating for the student then, advocating for the student now, and will in the future.
ZIPF: What do you value most in a SMOB, and how will you embody those values?
I love a SMOB who is willing to stand up for what they feel is right, regardless of what others think, regardless of what the Board may think. Even if I don’t win, I want a Student Member of the Board who will represent the students regardless of whether the teachers or the adults restrict us. And if they limit us, I want a SMOB who will go above and beyond and stand up for the little guy.
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?
I think legacy is a term used for people greater than I. I am not looking to leave behind a legacy… I am looking to make a difference that will last, yes, but legacy is a term for people who cure cancer, for people who do these wonderful things. I think helping our county be a greater county—that could be a legacy. I think, in general, being SMOB and affecting the county in numerous ways is a legacy in its own.