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Kennedy senior wants to bring student voice to the table as school board member -

 

by John Hack

Special to The Greater Olney News

The three-month hiatus between junior and senior years can be hectic for high school students.

Visits to college campuses, practicing for the SAT or ACT exams and perhaps working a part-time job can sometimes be so hectic it is not much of a summer break.

Nathaniel “Nate” Tinbite, a rising senior at John F. Kennedy High School in Glenmont, understands that his role as the newly elected student member of the Montgomery County Public Schools Board of Education will add to that challenge.

“I’m not gonna lie,” Tinbite said. “It’s a lot of reading. It’s a busy schedule.”

For the 17-year-old Silver Spring resident, however, stepping up to roles many see fit for adults, as well as being a champion for social activism and justice among his peers, is greater than the fear of failure.

Tinbite was elected in the spring as the student member of the school board, a position that allows him to vote on all issues except negative personnel actions.

The student member is not paid, but receives a $5,000 college scholarship, Student Service Learning hours and one honors-level social studies credit.

It was March of last year when Tinbite spoke in front of thousands at an anti-gun violence student rally.

That may have helped inspire him in his run for the school board position, but the idea was likely planted years before.

“It was back over in eighth grade when I was given the opportunity, along with my friends, to just fight for one issue that we wanted to push for,” he said.

Also, he noticed at Kennedy that some of his classmates, many of whom were his friends, were part of the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) program and had fewer opportunities.

“I thought that was pretty messed up,” he said.

While campaigning for the student seat on the board, Tinbite saw the disparities between the 66 middle and high schools.

“We’re a great system, but we have internal divides that need to be fixed, as any system,” he said. “The people in the central office work tirelessly just to make sure that this system functions properly.”

He said his parents came from Ethiopia over 20 years ago.

“Just being able to bring my background, my perspective, and hear more from other students puts me in this role,” he said.

Tinbite served as president of the Montgomery County Regional (MCR) Student Government Association and is a founding member of MoCo for Change. He also served as the MCR vice president and chief of staff for former student member of the board, Matthew Post.

He was elected to serve a one-year term on the school board by middle and high school students of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). He received 74 percent of the vote in the April 24 election in which 85 percent of eligible students cast ballots.

His term officially began July 1.

Tinbite is particularly grateful for the board members and advisors who he says have been very accommodating to him to “get used to what it means to read hundreds of documents before a meeting. Letting me know how to really adjust and work comfortably with seven different personalities on the school board.”

He said his first priority on the board is bridging socio-economic divides in the county school system, including closing the opportunity gap and bringing the student voice to the table.

As for a possible career in politics, Tinbite isn’t putting anything out of the equation, but says he might be interested in working on humanitarian issues because of the satisfaction of helping people.

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