For political science senior Steven Chapman, the hardest aspect of seeking public office came only after the ballots were cast.
The 22-year-old ran as a write-in candidate for the Tolleson Union High School District Governing Board, defeating his opponent by just 24 votes, 987-963. But he didn’t find out he won until last week, when the final votes were counted.
“Waiting was the most frustrating part of the election,” Chapman said.
Since the election required voters to write in the name of the candidates, a physical count of all ballots was conducted.
With a platform focused on implementing career-driven education in high school curriculum, Chapman was elected to a two-year term, filling the seat of a board member who recently resigned.
In his campaign efforts, Chapman said he focused on communicating with the community to figure out what issues concerned the voters. Meeting and interacting with people was really the most exciting aspect of running, he said.
“I got to meet people from different backgrounds and political ideologies,” Chapman said. “It was very liberating.”
Chapman gained a lot of respect as a young candidate and a college student, and he pushed his campaign until the very end.
“My sister and I stood outside the voting location on Nov. 2 and handed out many personalized cards that included my name, information and picture,” Chapman said. “I wanted to permeate who I am in the minds of all voters.”
His goal in office is to reconstruct the high school curriculum to provide students with skills needed for as they go onto college or start their careers.
“Not everyone can, will or wants to go to college,” Chapman said. “This program provides these students with options post-graduation.”
Specialty courses that target careers like nursing, engineering or aviation combined with general courses in math, science and English create a cooperative track toward graduation, Chapman said.
As a current college student, Chapman said he can relate to the struggles of college students, which occur inside and outside the classroom and are largely due to a lack of preparedness in high school.
College is not for everyone so having courses that are career driven would help those who do not plan to attend college but want work experience, history and political science junior Alex Norton said.
Oftentimes, students are rushed into college and do not make good use of it, he said.
“You aren’t involved very much in the classroom setting and you become detached from what you truly want to do,” Norton said.
Also, by taking courses in high school, a student is capable of making more solidified decisions once entering college, Norton said.
Chapman said graduating from a high school within the district he is now governing gives him great insight on the experiences students have while attending school.
“I am really looking forward to representing the district and getting back to where I came from in order to better the school environment as well as the community,” Chapman said.
Although Chapman is the youngest member of five on the governing board, Chapman said he is excited to bring fresh ideas to the agenda and feels the members are open to his thoughts.
Local politics provides an appropriate stepping stone into politics and procedural work, said Paul Lewis, associate professor of political science.
“The local level is the minor leagues of politics,” Lewis said.
However, being a part of the political process on a smaller scale provides a greater opportunity to implement ideas and to see them through, he said.
Conversations with fellow board members have created a more comfortable and at-ease feeling going forth out of the election, Chapman said.
“One of the board members said they thought she was young when she was running in her early 30s,” he said. “I am 22 years old.”
Despite lack of experience, Chapman said his coursework in college will help him understand policy and procedure work as he takes on the position.
“I think this job will be a good learning experience going forward into my political career,” Chapman said.
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