Junior Dawson Vandervort is ready to make a change in his community.
The political science and philosophy double major is running for school board in his home district of Vandalia-Butler, about 20 minutes from campus.
Vandervort believes there has been too much of an emphasis on athletics in the school district recently.
“A lot of the budget has been allocated to extra-curricular activities, and not as much attention has been paid to classroom instruction,” he said.
This has led to a decline in the quality of education students in the district receive, according to Vandervort.
“The last time our district had an excellent rating was in 2012,” he shared.
According to the Ohio Department of Education’s yearly report card, the Vandalia-Butler City School District has an overall rating of a C. The most troubling aspect of this grade to Vandervort is the college and career readiness component. For this specific area, Vandalia-Butler City Schools received a D.
This is part of the reason Vandervort feels now is the best time for him to run for elected office. As a college student, he brings a unique perspective to the issue of college readiness.
“Being 30 to 40 years younger than my opponents, I can bring a fresh angle for solutions to college readiness,” he said.
One of the solutions Vandervort wants to implement would involve increased funding for specialized classes. By creating these classes geared toward getting students ready for their futures, he hopes to improve the district’s rating.
As a school board member, Vandervort would attend monthly meetings with four fellow board members. These meetings are open to the public. Occasionally, he would also be part of executive meetings. These would deal with any employee or personnel issue going on in the district.
So far, Vandervort has been a bit frustrated with the political process. He shared that there is a lot of red tape and bureaucracy he’s had to deal with, but he enjoys campaigning.
“It’s been really fun knocking on doors and meeting people in the community,” Vandervort shared. “I’ve met a lot of interesting people.”
He said many of the community members he’s met have questioned why he’s running for school board now.
“Why not?” Vandervort responded.
People also have asked about his experience and why he’s qualified to run for school board. Vandervort says thanks to his political science classes at UD, he has strengthened his understanding of public policy. His internship in the Ohio Statehouse this summer also helped.
“I worked for State Representative Kent Smith who has several pieces of legislation focused on education policy,” Vandervort said. “Being around his office this summer really taught me a lot about public service.”
Rep. Smith also gave Vandervort some advice on running for office.
“He said not to try and make people think you’re smart, just make them think you’re nice,” Vandervort shared. “I’ve definitely taken that with me as I’ve started my campaign.”
Despite getting involved in politics now, Vandervort isn’t sure if he sees himself running for higher office one day.
“I don’t really want to view my school board campaign as a first step for anything,” he said. “I’m just trying to help my community out.”
His advice to other college students who might consider running for office is to take a chance and see what happens.
“You definitely have to weigh the pros and cons,” he said. “If you really want to make a difference, though, just do it.”
For more information about Vandervort’s campaign, visit his website or follow @vandervortforvandalia on Instagram.
Photos courtesy of Dawson Vandervort