By CAPA JRC reporters Jessica Zhang and Robert Sun
The Student Member of the Board, also called SMOB, is a student who becomes a voting member of the Montgomery County Board of Education. This year, Arvin Kim, a junior at Walt Whitman High School, is one of two candidates running in the 45th SMOB Election.
Why Run For SMOB
Since middle school, Arvin has advocated for the student body with county organizations such as the Montgomery County Student Council and the Montgomery County Regional SGA.
“I want to run for this role because I believe in the student voice that I want to work with and that I want to fight for. That's been inspiring me for the past five years and is really pushing me to that role and pushing me to this cause of increasing the government county's equity, the opportunities we provide for everyone,” Kim said.
One of Kim’s main points in running was to build a more equitable and more equal Montgomery County Public Schools.
A major problem that Kim is speaking up for is students’ mental health. No one can deny that every year there are students who suffer from the workload or school in general.
“I feel like now more than ever, especially this is a trying time for a student. It's difficult to be a student right now coming out of the pandemic,” Kim said. “I definitely think that every day is a new struggle as we really have returned to our schools every day, every week, every month, every quarter, we find that, oh yeah, this is what school was like back when we were in person.”
To deal with all of the struggles that come with going back in person, Kim has strongly advocated for the idea of employing more psychologists in schools to help deal with mental health and support students when they need it.
“We have around a third of the amount of psychologists we want to by the recommendation of the National Association of School Psychologists working in Montgomery County. We want to make sure that we're accommodating for the needs of students, especially on [mental health],” Kim said.
Arvin also brought up another way to deal with mental health issues by having wellness Wednesdays. “What I've seen some schools do is to have one day a week, one day every two weeks with shorter classes and a free period to give students the chance to catch up on work or make sure they're not falling behind,” Kim said.
Besides students’ mental health, another issue that Kim is advocating for is inequality and the opportunity gap, having schools offer the same things to give everyone the same opportunities.
“You could go to one school in our county where they have hundreds of courses, arts courses, elective courses, history courses, AP courses which is another big one and go to another school in the same school system who just have a fraction of that,” Kim said. Kim hopes to close that gap and give every student an equal and fair chance.
Kim also mentioned free tutoring services MCPS offers as a resource to help students still suffering from learning loss. “What I want to do is to make sure that [free tutoring services] are a permanent part of our budget, moving forward and investing what we can to really make sure that this is not a small program, but benefiting every student who needs it,” Kim said.
Another issue that Kim brought up was school lunches. MCPS has made school lunches free to make it available to everyone; however, because of this, schools run out of lunches to give out and do not always have the best nutritious food.
“I think that the best way to approach this is to just invest in our school lunches…making sure that they have nutritional value and they are meals that students enjoy, providing a diverse array of options, especially accommodating vegan and vegetarian diets or halal diets,” Kim said.
Kim also strongly supports the idea of having better security technology in schools. “What we can do as a school system is to make sure that we're investing in security technology. We're making sure that our doors have locks and our hallways have security cameras. To make sure that we have everything in place to keep our students safe,” Kim said. Rather than having police officers, Kim suggests security technology would be a better option.
Arvin looks forward to the 45th SMOB election on April 20th.“I think that's the biggest part of this role, being connected with the students and serving as a representative, serving as their voice. And you can't do that without hearing from the students.”
Learn more about Kim’s campaign: https://www.arvinforsmob.com/
This article was provided by Chinese American Parents Association Junior Reporter Club (CAPA JRC) with members who interviewed, audio recorded, wrote, translated, and video recorded. CAPA JRC has 25 Montgomery County middle to high school students. They have created a bilingual platform delivering news and serving the community.