Gary Bradley-Lopez, 21
4th year college student Gary Bradley-Lopez decided to run for office out of anger - anger at the lack of diversity on his hometown’s school board. A recent graduate of the district, he hopes to be the first elected Hispanic school board member on USD 500 Board of Education in Kansas City.
What was the best piece of advice you received about running for office?
The best piece of advice I received about running for office was from a young elected official in Wyandotte County who said that she told herself when she first ran that “If I win this will be great, but if I lose this will be one of the best things I lose in, and this will be an amazing experience.” I have taken that statement on with me since I met her. No matter the outcome of this election I know that this will be an experience I will carry on with my self forever, and I will be satisfied with the outcome because either way I was able to bring up issues that people care about, and someone needed to do it.
What are the potholes in your school district? What are the issues you feel are going ignored and you want to see addressed?
The potholes that we have in our school district are potholes that I know can be fixed because we have an administration, teachers, staff, parents and students that are working hard to move our district to the top. We have low test scores that increasing, we have a steady rate on ACT scores that I know will move up, and we have been understaffed with teachers. While we have problems in USD 500, I know they are problems that can be fixed with the right people and I do believe we have. The issues that I feel are being Ignored and I wish were being addressed is the lack of teachers of color and teachers who live in the USD 500 district, it is important to have teachers who look like our students and teachers who have the same lived experiences as our students. I heard a quote that said “You can’t be what you can’t see” and if our students don’t see teachers that look like them, then they won’t believe they can be a teacher or college graduate.
You decided to run for school board “out of anger” because of the lack of representation on your school board. What perspectives do you think are missing and what do you hope to bring?
“…older people will say that we need more young people involved in politics, but when I decided to run those same people said I wasn’t ready.”
USD 500 has a vast amount of diversity with over 60 languages spoken. We also live in a county that has no majority, it is one-part white, one-part black, and one-part Hispanic, and as one of four districts in the county we have a 50 percent population of Hispanic students in USD 500. With the majority Hispanic in USD 500 we have never elected a Hispanic school board member. We were grateful to have one Hispanic board member appointed, but we have never elected a Hispanic school board member which lacks a voice and representation on the board. Having a Hispanic school board member allows relatability of issues to be voiced when making decisions that benefit out students. I also believe we lack a young vote on the board as well, it is important to have a school board member that has a youthful voice that represents each student across USD 500. I know what it is to be a student in USD 500 which is important when making decision for students.
Young candidates are often dismissed because of their lack of experience. What do you think has prepared you the most for this position?
“You can’t be what you can’t see” and if our students don’t see teachers that look like them, then they won’t believe they can be a teacher or college graduate."
I agree that many young candidates are dismissed for their lack of experience, as a matter of fact older people will say that we need more young people involved in politics, but when I decided to run those same people said I wasn’t ready. I believe I am the most qualified in a school board race because I am a college student and a recent graduate of the district. I understand being a student in modern education and I understand what it is to be a college student right out of the district. Being a student allows me to be a student on the school board by listening, learning, and doing my homework to make decisions that will impact our students and district community. It is important to have a board member that has a listen and learning mindset at all board meetings.
What advice would you give to another young Democrat considering a run for office?
DO IT and don’t be sorry when you do. In politics I have learned there are groups and people who want to hold on to their seats for as long as they want because of the power they have. If you are faced with a lot of intimidation from older candidates or elected officials, no matter what keep running for the people and not for the opponent. Have fun and be you, through out this campaign I was told I needed to change my look and my speaking style, I would say be your self I continue to wear “Chanclas” and say “Dope” because that is who I am, and that is what people want, who you are!