ALPINE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The youngest elected official in West Michigan may be younger than some of your kids.
Eric-John Szczepaniak, 18, just graduated from Kenowa Hills High School and is now a freshman at Grand Valley State University, where he is studying political science. He says that makes now an ideal time to sit on Kenowa Hills Public School Board of Education and speak up for the student body.
He said he had long anticipated running for office, but never really expected he would win.
“It seemed like it was stuck at 91 percent forever for precincts reporting,” Szczepaniak said of watching the results come in on election night. “When it finally got to 100 and I saw that I was up by 44 votes, I was through the roof.”
He beat Danielle Storey, who’s roughly 20 years older than him. He credits the win to conversations.
“When you can talk to someone for a minute or two, even that quick, and just explain who you are, why you’re running, then they’re a lot more likely to go out and actually vote for you,” Szczepaniak said.
He said that during his six-year term, he will focus on giving students more of a voice, citing Northview Public Schools as an example he’d like to follow.
“They do this really cool thing where they have the seven community elected board members like normal and then they have two student representatives that the high school student body elects,” Szczepaniak said.
He would also like to focus on bridging the gap between wealth and achievement.
“When you have people that are living paycheck to paycheck, it’s a lot harder to have their kids be involved in extracurriculars, to come to all the PTA events, so we’re kind of missing that voice,” Szczepaniak said.
On the heels of the presidential election, he’s hoping the real issues strengthen our country rather than divide.
“Education has the potential to be one of those uniting issues that Democrats and Republicans in the state can work on solutions,” Szczepaniak said.
Szczepaniak will meet with his superintendent Monday for the first time since he graduated.