Alex Rodriquez is hoping to make history. At 18, the recent graduate of Chanute High School is aiming to become the youngest person ever elected to the USD 413 Board of Education.
In an interview with The Tribune, Rodriquez acknowledged that his age will be viewed as a detriment by some, but believes that he is qualified to fill a school board seat slated for the November ballot.
“Public office is a very challenging and complicated field to get into,” he said. “An 18-year-old fresh out of high school may seem laughable. But who better to make decisions affecting students in our district than someone who was a student there less than a month ago?”
Rodriquez alluded to the district’s motto, “Students First,” noting that he’s a “student for students.”
“I think the best way to put students first is to have one of their peers involved in the decision-making process,” he said.
With no primary for the seat and the election five months away, Rodriquez is hopeful that this will kick-start his career as an aspiring politician.
“I’ve been a very politically-interested teenager,” he said. “I want to spend my life in public service. It’s always been my goal to help people, and I believe I’m able to communicate others’ needs.”
District Superintendent Kellen Adams said it’s encouraging to see young people civically engaged.
“I think it’s great when you have people who are young that are interested in becoming civically involved,” Adams said. “Hopefully, that sparks a lifetime of civic engagements. The more people we can get interested at a younger age, the better for our communities and schools.”
Rodriquez is fresh off an appearance as a National debate qualifier.
“I have a great deal of understanding of public policy from my debate experience,” he said.
Due to his recent experience as a student in the district, Rodriquez believes he can bring a unique perspective to the board.
“I think that I can provide great insight to the thoughts and motives of the USD 413 student body,” he said. “And hopefully provide input about the impact of certain legislative decisions on the student body, and the methodology of the decisions being made by the board.”
Rodriquez said he will strive to provide “assurance and transparency” to parents in the district.
“I can provide them with a promise that if I do make a mistake, I will be honest about it,” he said. “I’m not afraid to admit my faults. I’m not the type of politician to tip-toe around and sugarcoat it. I’m going to speak with my constituents like the adults they are.”
Rodriquez has pinpointed an issue he would like to see addressed by the board, related to turnover at the administrative level.
“I want to provide the structure that the children and students of USD 413 deserve,” he said. “There’s just been so much shifting around, and so much confusion and uncertainty from the student body. I want the students of the district to know that it is a stable environment that will nurture their educational maturity.”
Rodriquez played an integral role in several high school clubs and was a founder of the Chanute Teenage Republicans and Model United Nations clubs. He also served as chair of the 2nd congressional district of Kansas Future Republicans.
“I’ve been involved in so many great extracurricular activities at Chanute High School,” he said. “Being involved with these clubs and organizations has allowed me to represent my community on a state level.”
Rodriquez deferred naming a favorite active politician, but said he’s been studying Abraham Lincoln. His current focus is on obtaining his Associates Degree in Philosophy and Humanities from Neosho County Community College.