Severna Park High School senior Zach McGrath was elected to the Anne Arundel County Board of Education as student member of the board (SMOB) in April 2022. He began his one-year term on July 1, becoming the first SMOB from Severna Park since Josie Urrea during the 2018-2019 school year.
McGrath was a youth representative for the Anne Arundel County Office of Health Equity and Racial Justice and interned for Delegates Shaneka Henson and J. Sandy Bartlett in the State House. He currently interns for Senator Sarah Elfreth.
Prior to his election to the Board of Education, McGrath was active in student government. He served on the Chesapeake Regional Association of Student Councils executive board, the Maryland Association of Student Councils executive board, and was an officer for his high school’s student government.
As a Boy Scout, he worked on numerous conservation projects, including working with Kinder Farm Park to support the local bluebird population. He also serves on the youth advisory council of the Maryland Civic Education Coalition and works with the organization to promote civic education.
With the school year underway, McGrath told the Voice about his goals and experience.
Q: You have an impressive resume between your work in the Maryland state legislature, serving your school’s SGA and being on other councils. What motivated you to take on more responsibilities by running for student member of the board?
A: Through my work in student government, I heard about the student member position. I researched it and found that I could positively impact the community and be a voice for all AACPS students.
Q: Do you remember what initially piqued your interest in politics and public service? If so, when did that occur?
A: I was initially inspired to get involved in politics and public service due to a Fourth of July visit to the Italian American World War Veterans Of The U.S. Post 40 in Milford, Massachusetts, with my dad. He served 31 years in the Navy as a naval aviator in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. Veterans of the Korean, Vietnam and second world wars told me stories of why they volunteered to risk their lives for this country and what they had to give up. I was inspired by their sacrifices for this country and wanted to continue their legacy of service.
Q: You started as SMOB on July 1. How has the experience been so far?
A: It has been great! The board members have been super welcoming. I have been able to tour a few schools and meet the teachers, custodians, food workers, and staff that make our school system work. AACPS is an excellent school system, and I couldn't be happier to help support it.
Q: During the SMOB debate, you mentioned some priorities: two mental health days for students, improving transportation, etc. Why are those important to you?
A: When I decided to run, I wanted to focus on issues that would help the day-to-day life of students and their families. That's why I focused on transportation and mental health; both affect students' and parents' quality of life. I want to alleviate the stress on the community by making bus transportation more reliable while supporting our struggling students by providing the opportunity to take a mental health break.
Q: You also mentioned following the lead of other counties, such as procuring electric school buses like Montgomery County. It sounds like you believe there are reasonable solutions to improve AACPS?
A: Yes, I think electric buses would be a tremendous cost-saving investment next time the school system purchases vehicles. Our school system is currently focused on ensuring reliable transportation as the school year starts. After that, I am very excited to explore ways AACPS can make our transportation services green while being financially responsible.
Q: Have you reached out to anyone for advice?
A: Yes, I have. Drake Smith and Bunmi Omisore, my student member predecessors, have been great resources for advice on balancing academics, extracurriculars and my board responsibilities. I am incredibly grateful for their support.
Q: Your idea of a team-building trip is laser tag, so I have to ask, have you persuaded your fellow board members to put that on the calendar yet?
A: The board members were surprisingly really receptive to the idea. A lot of them thought it would be a great way to team-build while having. One board member even suggested a good laser tag place to use. Hopefully, soon, the board will not only debate with words but with lasers as well!
Q: You’re not just a representative for students but also teachers, parents and all stakeholders countywide. What is the best way for anyone to reach you about their concerns?
A: I am a student member, but I represent everyone in Anne Arundel County. If you ever want to reach me, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Is there anything else you want people to know?
A: If you ever see me around, don't be a stranger! I may be the student member, but I represent everyone: teachers, parents, and every member of the Anne Arundel community. I'd be happy to stop and have a conversation. A successful school system needs public input, and I would love to discuss how to improve our schools with anyone.