A Meade High School junior who aspires to dedicate his career to the fight for social justice has been elected to serve as the new student member of the Anne Arundel County Board of Education.
Drake Smith was elected for the post by the Chesapeake Regional Association of Student Councils. The vote was official on May 22.
“I [feel] greatly honored to represent the students of Anne Arundel County,” Drake said. “Any concerns they have, I want them to know they have a voice.”
Drake’s name will be forwarded to Gov. Larry Hogan, who will make the formal appointment to the Anne Arundel County Board of Education.
The formal appointment begins July 1.
Drake will succeed Rida Alvi of Annapolis High School, whose one-year term expires this month.
Enrolled in Meade High’s International Baccalaureate and “Project Lead The Way” programs, Drake also plays baseball and runs track.
In his spare time, the 17-year-old serves as the secretary of Meade High’s Rho Kappa National Social Studies Honor Society and is president of the Anne Arundel County NAACP’s Youth & College Division.
The son of Marlisa and David Smith, Drake is one of four children. The family resides in Odenton. Marlisa Smith works for the National Security Agency. David Smith is a general contractor in Hanover.
Drake said he ran for the position because he wants to “elevate, empower and energize” the county’s students and provide “more transparency” in the board’s work on behalf of students.
“A lot of students don’t know what’s going on on the board,” he said. “They are so busy with sports and high school stuff. … I want to be a reminder of what the board is doing. [Students] can speak up.”
Drake said his main concern right now is the well-being of students as the county’s schools decide whether to reopen in the fall.
“This has been a big change,” Drake said, noting that the implementation of distance learning during the COVID-19 shutdown has been stressful for students and their families.
The change in the county school system’s grading system and the decision to hold virtual graduation ceremonies for high school seniors has not been easy for his peers, Drake said. However, he is hopeful that the academic life of students will return to some sense of normalcy as the fall semester draws near.
When schools do reopen, one of his priorities will be to ensure that middle and high school students can achieve a healthy school and life balance.
Drake said many students feel overwhelmed by homework assignments, part-time jobs, extracurricular activities and family obligations.
“Some students don’t go directly home after school,” he said.
Some students don’t get home until 8 or 9 p.m., Drake said, and often must complete several hours of homework. They don’t go to bed until midnight or later.
“[They’re getting] less sleep and are prone to fall asleep during class, missing classroom material,” Drake said. “It’s not the disrespect of teachers.”
Some students, he said, even miss class so they can catch up on sleep and work. To aid students, Drake said he wants to propose that schools institute a 30-minute homework rule per class for county high school students and less for middle and elementary school students.
The reduction of homework assignments for the nation’s students is a current debate among educators. Drake said the reduction in homework would give students more time to study difficult subjects and to read.
As president of the Anne Arundel County NAACP Youth & College Division, Drake is using social media to organize county students to respond proactively to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Last week, Drake sent out a call of action to students asking them to write Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman and their county council member to restore $5 million in funding for the fiscal year 2021 budget to purchase body cameras for all county police officers.
Drake said contacting local politicians is one way students can help to initiate change.
Body cameras, he said, would help prevent incidents of police brutality in Anne Arundel County. If an incident does occur, Drake said body cameras will ensure that “[it] is captured on film to get justice.”
Looking to the future, Drake plans to attend Howard University or the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.
At Howard, he intends to major in political science and either continue his work with the NAACP or apply for a position at the American Civil Liberties Union.
Drake said that if he attends the Naval Academy, he plans to serve the nation and work his way up the ranks to “serve in the top brass” of the Navy. He said he wants to ensure that the service branch is equitable in providing leadership opportunities for people of color.
“The fight must continue,” Drake said of the struggle for equal rights. “We must continue to push forward.”
This story originally ran in the Ft. Meade Sound Off on June 4, 2020.