At fifteen years old, I am not sure of what I would do as mayor.
That is, of course, not the case. At a period of life synonymous with desires for freedom and control living as well as a time of acute political tension, imagining how I would want to change my community if given the chance is not a challenge but something I consider daily. Of course, as the mayor of my city, Richmond, Virginia, my power would fall short of establishing stronger national gun control or reforming the electoral college, but I would have the authority to move for a better life for the citizens in my area. This is what makes the role of mayor so intriguing. Mayors, unlike higher-ranked government officials, are held to their word. A city is like a family: brutally honest. If a mayor is falling short or not fulfilling her promises, her citizens will hold her accountable. I think that, because of this, a mayor should take on the issues that most directly affect her specific city. Because of this, if I were the mayor of my city, my central focus would be education.
To properly address any issue, it is important to consider the people who would be affected. When dealing with education this is particularly important because the audience is the future of the city. As a high schooler myself, I know that students are impressionable. This can be seen as negative, but I believe that the ready minds of young citizens should be seized as an opportunity to mold a stronger and brighter future for my city.
A couple of months ago, an issue arose in a middle school in my district. The incident included serious racially-based harassment and assault between middle school boys. It was a hate crime. I have experienced first-hand the way that some young adults have normalized racism. This attack is not random. People use racial slurs and perpetuate dangerous stereotypes, but when anyone calls it out parents, other students, and even the school will say that the issue is not serious and the person is just being overly-sensitive or “politically correct”. However, racism in any form is violent. Even if the actual act of racism is not, it is encouraging attacks like the one in our local middle school.
If I were mayor, I would work harder to address racism in schools. No one is too young to learn about systematic racism and its history and I believe that the severity of racism should never be watered down. Racism is the product of ignorance and the most fundamental job of the education system is to fight ignorance with knowledge. I would have speakers visit kindergartners through seniors to discuss these issues and if a particularly disturbing incident like the one at the local middle school arose I would make sure that the entire school underwent inspections to ensure that they were handling it responsibly.
Another obstacle in our education system that I would try to improve would be the educational achievement gap. Education has the power to foster upward mobility and fight against the cycle of poverty, but only if schools, especially those in low-income areas, are attentive and vigilant. Sadly, socioeconomic status continues to have a serious impact on grades and achievement for a multitude of reasons. To combat this, I would create more reliable online resources, especially for high school students, to create an environment that would reduce dropout rates. In Richmond, high school students already receive a school-issued computer, so I would put these to better use by establishing more expansive school websites. The websites would include all of the student’s assignments. They would also have a class page for each of their classes on which their teachers would be required to post an online version of all notes and handouts so that students who have to miss school can easily catch up. The teachers could also post links to recordings of classes or answers to homework. I think that these resources would make school less stressful because students who miss school or have to spend extra time after school with a job to support their family can spend less time worrying about having all of the materials.
Finally, I would create a website on which students could send specific concerns regarding education to the board of education for our city. If there is one thing that high schoolers crave it is being taken seriously. I think that creating a means through which students could easily speak out on educational issues would help to connect problems with the people with the authority to solve them.
In fact, I believe that connection would be the foundation of my goals as mayor. If I ever had the opportunity, I would work to make sure that the voices of my citizens were heard and their issues addressed. A mayor’s job is to be hands-on and work from the ground up to establish a safer and stronger community, and that is exactly what I would do.