Steven Priester

Manchester Valley High School senior Steven Priester was named the student member of the Maryland State Board of Education. (Staff photo by Brian Krista / July 2, 2014)

Most high school students aren't interested in understanding state budget documents, reviewing policy or improving education systems.

But Steven Priester, known for wearing colorful bow ties to Carroll County Board of Education meetings, isn't like most high school students.

On July 22, the Manchester Valley High School senior will attend his first Maryland State Board of Education meeting as a member of the board.

The board has 12 members appointed by the governor, with the student member able to vote on all matters except those pertaining to budget or personnel issues. All but the student member serve four-year terms.

Priester is Carroll County's first student representative to be appointed to the state board. He was named to the position by Gov. Martin O'Malley in May.

Last year, Priester served as the student representative on the Carroll County Board of Education, a position that he said was both rewarding and exhausting.

"Being a student rep for the board of education consumes a lot of time and sanity," Priester said. "It's very rewarding to be on the board, but it comes with its challenges."

Priester was nominated for the position by his school late last year. He was one of five finalists for the student representative position and one of two recommended to the governor's office for consideration. Westminster High School senior Jeremy Price was also one of the five finalists considered for the position.

Involved with student government since the fifth grade, Priester said he never envisioned himself serving at the state level.

The 17-year-old joked, "There's life beyond student government?" then confessed that he does, in fact, participate in activities beyond school board meetings. In addition to playing tuba for the Manchester Valley High School band and working as a peer Spanish tutor, Priester is also active in Boy Scouts and with the countywide student government association.

He has been an honor roll student since elementary school, according to Carroll County Public Schools, and is a two-time recipient of the President's Award for Academic Excellence.

He also plays lacrosse and participates on the school's debate team, Future Educators of America and Ski Club, according to a release from the school system.

With an older brother attending Frostburg State University and a younger brother in middle school, Priester said that his parents are supportive of his school board commitments, although they sometimes caution him to leave some time to be a teenager.

"They're always mindful of my well-being and want to make sure that I'm still enjoying my 17-year-old life," Priester said. "They want to make sure that I don't miss it all."

Both retired firefighters, Priester's parents work in the Carroll County Public School system. His father is a bus driver and his mother is a one-on-one support person in the classroom.

"He is a neat kid. He cares about people and stands up for the things he believes in," Kaaren Priester said of her son. "If he doesn't believe in something, he's going to let you know, but in a nice way. He's a real genuine person."

Priester said he is looking forward to his first State Board of Education meeting.

"I have some anxiety. I hope my skills will transfer between the two board positions," Priester said last week. "But mostly there's just a lot of excitement: This is a huge honor."

Carroll County Board of Education President Virginia Harrison said she expects Priester will excel in his new position.

"Steven was great to work with," Harrison said. "It's intimidating when you're a student, looking out at that audience, and seeing principals and administrators.