Leadership comes naturally to D’Andre Anderson. The 2017 graduate of Central High School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, made student leadership his passion, serving on the Student Advisory Council to the Hamilton County superintendent and participating in Tennessee’s STARS (Students Taking A Right Stand) program. He represented every student in his district by filling the student slot on the school board his senior year of high school. “It motivated me to one day want to come back and pursue a full-time career with being a school board member.”
The opportunity arrived faster than Anderson expected. A year after graduation, the spot on the school board representing his former district came open. The opportunity was too good to pass up. “I just couldn’t shake it,” he said. “I prayed to God about it. I talked to my family.” So he transferred from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, a move re-establishing him at home, and making him eligible to run for the school board seat.
With a campaign team full of recent high-school graduates, D’Andre, also a religious affairs specialist in the Army National Guard, hopes he can serve on the school board, while simultaneously chasing his dreams of working in film or television and helping uplift students to, as he says, “show them they are so much more important than they think they are.”
Do you think young people feel unimportant?
Yes! (In past leadership positions) it was really hard to get students to speak about how they felt because they felt like their voices didn’t matter, and no matter what they had to say, their voices didn’t weigh anything to anyone. I found myself having to pull their voices out because they were so scared to say what they need to say. I want to show other students just because we’re young doesn’t mean we can’t do it. We just have to dig deep within ourselves, and pursue it, and take a step out.
What’s the hard part of running?
The hardest part of this all has definitely been my age factor. Not to make this a race thing, but I’m running in a predominately white district, so I feel like those are the two disadvantages I have right in front of me. But my biggest comeback to (questions about my) age: Since when did we have to put an age on when it’s the right time to make a change? Just because I’m 19 and just because you’re 66 doesn’t mean you’re the only one allowed to make a change. Change can come from anyone 4 years old or 100 years old.
What has the reaction from your family and friends been?
Originally, when it first all started to take off, a lot of them were very skeptical of me doing this at such a young age. But when I showed them I’d do it regardless of whether they agreed with it or not, they started to be a lot more supportive. Mom was scared I’d be embarrassed, or have my name dragged through the mud. I told her, “If me making a difference meant someone would embarrass me, let them do that. I’m going to stand here and make a difference, because that’s what I want to do.”
Are you nervous?
Always! One of my good friends, Kiya, broke it down to me this way: if someone wants to do something, but is afraid to do it, but does it anyway, that means they’re courageous. Sometimes I’m afraid to go to some events because I’m afraid of reactions I’m going to get from people. I’m scared. I’m always going to be scared, but I know what needs to be done.
Any tips for young people thinking about running for public office themselves?
I would just tell them honestly to stick with their heart and stand up for something, because in this world, you have to stand for something. I read a quote: “If you don’t stand for something, you’re going to fall for everything.” My advice to young politicians is to sustain your ground for whatever it is, because if that’s what you’re passionate about, never lose that drive. When you’re dead and gone, the world’s still going to go on, but you want to leave your legacy. 50 years from now, when my kids or grandkids ask, “What did you do during the time when all this time was going on— did you speak up, or remain silent?” I don’t want to be able to look at them and say I didn’t do anything. I want to be able to look at them and say that I did this—or, I tried to do this— to better your future.
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