In a hard fought loss, TJ alumni Tay Anderson recently ran for DPS Board of Education at nineteen years-old.
Never underestimate young people. This message is a powerful one, and it sums up the ideals that Tay Anderson hopes to instill in those who would underestimate the power and resolve that students possess.
At only 19 years of age, Anderson isn’t much different than any regular high school student. He is originally from Kansas City, but moved to Denver as a freshman in high school and attended Thomas Jefferson for a year and a half. While his career at TJ wasn’t as storied as his one at Manual High School, he does recall his favorite memories being some that many Spartans have in common, such as pep rallies and JROTC. After leaving TJ, he attended Prep Academy in order to regain the credits he had lost during his freshman year. It was there that he got his official start in politics when he chose to run for student body president, and to his surprise, he won. This led him to take an interest in the subject, and after transferring to Manual High School for the JROTC program, he chose to run again, taking a decisive victory and establishing himself in his new school. It was at Manual that he developed his leadership skills and developed into the person that he is today.
On his laundry-list of accomplishments, which includes serving as the Chair of the Colorado High School Democrats and receiving the endorsement of former Mayor Wellington Webb, Anderson served as the Student Body President at Manual High School for two consecutive years. One of the duties he was assigned as President was to announce the decision to co-locate a middle school onto the Manual campus. This decision was made without the consideration of the students already attending Manual, contradicting Anderson’s push for student voice in policy decisions. In his frustration, Anderson asked the Board of Education directly: “How do we get a student on the Board of Education?” and was met with an answer made in jest: “You’ll have to run, like any other candidate.”
After his senior year, Anderson entered the race for the District 4 seat on the DPS Board of Education. He was running against the returning Rachele Espiritu and Jennifer Bacon, two candidates who had plenty of experience in school systems and weren’t going to be easily beaten. Nonetheless, Anderson ran a fierce, sharply-critical campaign centered around reducing the influx of charter schools in the Denver area, increasing teacher salaries, and reducing the amount of standardized testing. His overall goal was to voice the concerns and issues that students face on a daily basis in the classroom, and having graduating from a DPS school at the same time as he began campaigning, he had an advantage with a first-hand perspective of what these issues were and how they impact students and administrators.
For Anderson, the campaign lifestyle seemed natural, and he embraced the many aspects of it with an open mind. When asked about the experience as a whole, he said, “It was stressful, but I loved every moment. I already miss meeting the kids and talking to them as they looked on, astonished with our story and movement.” To many of the young, aspiring politicians in our school system, he became an idol, showing how age is really just a number and shouldn’t be a restriction. Much of his support was gained going door-to-door, speaking with anyone who would hear his message and intentions. One of the more powerful interactions he recalled from his campaign was had during one such expedition, “I knocked on a door and an elderly woman answered. After I gave her my spiel, she proceeded to tell me her whole life story. She ended with, ‘I’m 103 years old. You’ll most likely be my last vote, but I’m proud to cast it for you, young man.’”
Unfortunately, Anderson lost to Bacon, but we certainly haven’t seen the last of him. He’s attending Metropolitan State University this year and is unsurprisingly planning on majoring in political science. He’s disappointed with the loss, but isn’t going to let it hold him back. “Just know that I will be back, I have a long future in politics, whether it be as an elected official or as a private citizen. I’m planning to always be on the frontlines, fighting for what is right.”