Meet 13-year-old Darwin, an 8th grade student attending George Washington Middle School and a participant in our Youth Education Program since the 1st grade. Over the years, Darwin has greatly improved academically and has become a leader amongst his peers. We were thrilled to learn that he founded and won the presidential election for his school’s very first Student Council! In a recent interview with Darwin, we learned more about his accomplishments, goals, and how he overcame obstacles throughout his journey to success.
Q: How long have you been going to the after-school program at Community Lodgings?
A: Since 1st grade.
Q: How do you like it in our Youth Education Program?
A: It’s amazing. I have a hard time with my Latin class at school and they offer a lot of help here. Some people encouraged me to take Spanish for an “easy A” but I really like the challenge.
Q: We’ve heard the great news about you winning the election for Student Council President at your school. How do you feel about it?
A: It’s really exciting because I’m the one who started the whole council.
Q: Can you tell us more about the Student Council that you started at your school?
A: The Student Council at my school gives the students a voice. I started it to give order because my school had a lot of fighting problems, violence, and teachers who didn’t understand students. So I made a whole student body organization that has different committees like School Beautification: we make the school better; Safety: we make sure that every single student feels safe in our school; Restorative Justice: to address violence and help students work things out; the Executive Committee: to make sure the other committees are in check; Public Relations: to maintain a relationship with the students; and Community Service: to make sure that our whole community is taken care of.
Q: What inspired you to take the initiative?
A: My Civics teacher was amazing and I fell in love with politics as soon as he started teaching it.
Q: What role do you play as the President?
A: I hold meetings with the other committees to make sure they are doing what they are supposed to do. Right now, I am actually writing a Constitution for my school with 13 amendments. I also hear out the other students’ problems that are not in the Council and report them back to the committees. I also have a great relationship with my teachers so they can also understand what students are going through.
Q: What are your goals for the Student Council?
A: I’m going to high school next year so my goal is for it to keep living on and for students to have a voice in education and a choice in what they are being taught. Of course we know that I can’t stop teachers from giving out homework, but I can make sure that they understand what we need and hear us.
Q: Do you have any personal goals for yourself?
A: I’ve been wanting to go to James Madison University, they have a great political science program. Then, I want to start with something small like City Council, move on to Congress, and then President of the United States.
Q: On your journey to creating the student council, did you encounter any obstacles?
A: Yes. I’ve had a lot of rumors started about me and was accused of something I didn’t do. By talking things out and not showing that I’m angry or getting sad, I could resolve those rumors and the problem I had.
Q: What kept you motivated?
A: My love for politics. My love for competition and debating.
Q: Who is your favorite politician?
A: I really, really like Alexander Hamilton. He was really smart and he came from nothing and rose to the top.
Q: If any living politician could be your mentor, who would you like to learn from?
A: I would love to learn from Obama. I am 99 percent sure that if he could’ve had another term, he would’ve won.
Q: Do you have any advice for younger students as you leave for high school?
A: Education is really important and if you don’t have any of that, you won’t be able to go on and do what you want to do in life.
Q: You have so much confidence and you really are dedicated to what you want to do. Did you have any struggles that you had to overcome to get to this point?
A: Yeah, definitely. In first grade, I wasn’t really confident and I didn’t like to talk to people. I was very shy. I was failing in class. I started getting better in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade, but in 5th grade, I told myself “I’m about to enter middle school. This is going to be a new journey in my life. I have to get better and have a new start.” So I just started working harder and it brought me to where I am today.
Q: Would you say that the Youth Education Program helped with that?
A: Definitely! I have friends here, not just the other students, but the staff is amazing. When I didn’t understand my homework, having their help meant a lot.
Kate Wiley, Community Lodgings’ Director of Resident Services, has personally worked with Darwin in our after-school program. When asked about her experience working with him and his accomplishments, this is what she had to say:
“He is definitely one of those kids that you know is going places. You will probably see him on a national stage, politically. He’s real about himself and super honest. He tries to be friends with everyone even if they don’t feel the same. His being true to himself is one of the things that I appreciate the most about him. He’s been an A/B student and he takes responsibility for his own work. I’m very proud that he came up with the student council idea in the first place. The speech that he wrote for his campaign was unbelievable, I was amazed! I don’t know adults that speak like that! Right now I’m having him work with one of my 7th graders who wants to be the next president. He’s mentoring her so she could have a good run next year. He’s amazing!”