O'Malley taps Odenton student to serve on state school board

Arundel High School junior Christian Hodges was recently selected to serve on the Maryland State Board of Education as its student member, a position that places another item on his already loaded agenda.

The 17-year-old from Odenton will serve during the 2013-2014 school year, with his appointment formally taking effect July 1.

Hodges is already known in five states for his penchant for multitasking. He currently serves on the Region 2 advisory council of the National Association of Student Councils, representing students from Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania. His two-year term with that group takes him to conferences all over the country.

He also serves as one of the vice presidents of the Chesapeake Regional Association of Student Councils, a countywide organization of student government associations. Hodges represents CRASC in its efforts to weigh in on legislative issues at the General Assembly. He also has a part-time job and even makes an occasional visit to help out at a Crofton-area community center. He often gets around to homework about midnight, he says.

The state school board post might change some of that. Next school year, Hodges said, he'll give up CRASC to make room for his state board duties.

"I can't do everything," he said.

He also plans to follow a partial school schedule next year, with "just" two Advanced Placement courses. But he can afford to scale back — this year he took six AP classes and is ahead of his overall course requirements. "I'll graduate on time," he said. "I have all the credits I need."

The junior, who aspires to a career in public policy, thrives on keeping busy and useful.

"I love the feeling of being able to manage all these different tasks, and being able to keep on track with it," he said. "Someone told me that it's like practice for your future career. Being able to manage all these things, it seems like practice."

Gov. Martin O'Malley appointed Hodges to the state board. He was nominated by Arundel High in October and was among five finalists from across Maryland vying for the job.

The student member on the state school board serves a one-year term during his or her senior year and has limited voting rights. This is the 20th anniversary of the inception of the student member on the board.

"Students are the ultimate consumers of our efforts as a state agency, and we find that the student perspective is invaluable in helping the State Department of Education and the state board develop policies to help move our schools forward," said state Superintendent Lillian Lowery.

"Christian is one of a long line of outstanding student leaders who have joined the board over the past 20 years," Lowery said. "He's energetic, inquisitive and positive — three traits important in education. The student board position isn't an honorary title. These young people do virtually the same work as our public members."

Hodges is equally aware of the importance of the post.

"It is exciting to provide that student perspective," Hodges said, "because I am in the classroom, and I am a direct recipient of the policies of the board. I was downtown for April's meeting, and I got to see them talk about school safety and the need for emergency evacuation plans. It was really exciting to be on the receiving end of a fire drill and a tornado drill."

Hodges said he attended a state board meeting that included contentious discourse during oral arguments of a case imvolving the Howard County school board and former board member Allen Dyer. The Howard board had requested that the state oust Dyer during the final year of his term, alleging such transgressions as breaching confidentiality requirements. Arguments in the case were heard earlier this month.

"That was the most exciting hearing I've ever seen," Hodges said of the oral arguments. "It got really heated. I thought they were going to call the police for a second. What an experience!"

Hodges said he believes he's ready for the balancing act that awaits him when his term begins. He said before the first day of school last year, he and his parents sat down with Arundel High School teachers and administrators to talk about working with him during the year while he served in his various roles.

As the year is coming to a close, Hodges said he — and his support network — have achieved pretty strong results. He said he missed about 13 full days but, with the help of his teachers, he managed his workload and excelled academically.

"For some reason," he said, "I thrive under that pressure."

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