Graham Snyder of North Hagerstown High School will be the next student member of the Washington County Board of Education.
The rising senior said he is advocating for financial aid in driver’s education and is focused on building open communication with the students he represents.
He is involved in his school’s track and cross country teams, plus International Baccalaureate, Model United Nations and student government.
For his term as the student member, Graham said he is hoping to continue pushing for improved mental health resources in schools like outgoing student board member, Mae Crews, did during her term. He wants more guidance counselors in Washington County Public Schools.
Driver’s education accessibility a top priority
What sets him apart is his idea to make driver’s education more accessible to teenagers.
“It’s a really big barrier for a lot of students in our area, students either can’t afford it or their families can’t,” Graham said.
While the school board likely cannot do anything about driver’s education prices, Graham said he believes he can leverage his position as the student member to work with local programs, like Hagerstown Community College, to build a financial aid or scholarship system.
Graham also wants to restructure the voting process to elect the student board member. Currently, students are voted on by members of the Washington County Association of Student Councils.
“Right now it’s a really small delegation of students at the general assembly, I want every student to vote eventually,” Graham said.
As a student board member, Graham wants to update students about what the board is working on and be available open to suggestions from other students. He plans on using social media, like his Instagram account @grahamthesmob, to keep students updated on his work.
Graham’s goal is to go to every high school and most middle schools for at least one day during his tenure.
After high school, Graham hopes to pursue a career in international service and work with other nations and cultures.
‘The student perspective is really important’
Student board members serve in a non-voting advisory position on the school board, but that doesn’t mean that position isn’t important, Graham said.
“The board members don’t know what’s happening in schools all the time,” Graham said. “The student perspective is really important because ‘Why would you make the decision about someone when they’re not even in the room?'”
Mae, the student representative for the 2022-23 academic year, said she had a great learning experience on the board.
The 18-year-old graduated from Barbara Ingram School for the Arts in May. She is planning to study business and politics at the University of Maryland, College Park this fall.
The heavy lifting by the student member happens during committees instead of full board meetings, Mae said. At committee meetings, such as for policy and curriculum, she provided instant feedback on policies directly impacting students.
During one committee, she used her life experience to contribute to a conversation around death in school.
Mae said her role on the school board brought her both into high-stakes meetings and into the classroom. She was asked to visit Salem Elementary School to compare two different elementary school curriculums.
“When you get to high school, you’re out of touch with what’s going on at the younger grade levels … Just being able to go to an elementary school and read with them about Mesopotamia, it’s a really wholesome experience, it makes you step back,” Mae said in an interview.
During her final board meeting on June 20, board of education members voiced their appreciation for Mae’s work last school year. Board member Linda Murray said Mae was an excellent student member.
“Congratulations on your time here and keep working hard, that’s the one thing no one can ever take away from you,” Board member Darrell Evans added. “If you work hard, you’ll always do well.”
Mae’s tenure ends on July 1, the same day Graham begins the position. His first board meeting will be on July 11.