On February 17, Montgomery County held its annual Student Member of the Board (SMOB) Nominating Convention. However, no students from the Northeast Consortium (NEC) – which is composed of the Blake, Paint Branch, and Springbrook high schools – attended the event as delegates. Shortly thereafter, ConNECts was formed with the stated purpose of “engaging more students from marginalized areas of MCPS to participate in student activism on the county level,” according to the ConNECts Instagram page.
Since ConNECts’ “launch” at the beginning of March, it has been recognized as a growing avenue for student advocacy within the county. Chapters and leadership teams have been established in all three NEC schools. Thus far, ConNECts has held meetings with gubernatorial candidate Ashwani Jain, SMOB candidate Hana O’Looney, and nine candidates for various MCR officer positions, in addition to issuing a number of endorsements for countywide student elections.
ConNECts centers around increasing participation by NEC students in county-level decisions by raising awareness of the opportunities available within MCPS. “I have attended both middle and high schools in the NEC and have seen firsthand the inequalities that go on within MCPS. I think that this club is so important because it provides opportunities to disadvantaged students that they normally wouldn’t even hear about,” Alayna Brandolini, a junior at Blake High School, Outreach Coordinator for Blake ConNECts, and Social Media Manager for ConNECts, said.
One way to introduce more NEC students to this advocacy work is by highlighting and advertising the work that organizations such as MCR have done to represent all MCPS students and spreading information about ways to get involved in the future. “I think what made the founding really necessary was the fact that so many NEC and downcounty students didn't know about opportunities such as MCR and other organizations, and ConNECts is a way for them to get involved and have their voices heard,” Noura Oseguera-Arasmou, sophomore at Paint Branch High School and Co-President of Paint Branch ConNECts, said.
Fostering relationships with both MCR’s outgoing and incoming officer teams to create targeted solutions to the problems students in underrepresented schools face has taken up much of the ConNECts leadership team’s time. “One accomplishment of ConNECts that I am very proud of is our work with MCR. Our leadership team has had meetings with MCR, officer candidates, one-on-one meetings with members, and more. Together we were able to create a MoCo ConNECts liaison role within MCR as well as getting many of our members roles as delegates of their respective schools for MCR [officer elections],” Alayna said.
A foundation of advocacy in the NEC is a goal that has yet to be reached, but ConNECts has a plan: “Coming up, ConNECts is planning on reminding high school students to sign up for MCR and apply to the executive board!” Noura said.
Written by Queen Balina
Published by PR Department