When Albert Corvah was in the seventh grade at Bonnie Branch Middle School in Ellicott City, he watched the election process for the student member of the Board of Education with awe.
"I thought it was a really noble cause, and I was amazed that a student could serve on the board," said Corvah, now 17 and a rising senior at Howard High School. "I kept that in the back of my mind that this was something that one day I wanted to do."
Corvah got to work, taking on numerous leadership positions at Howard High and at his church, and threw his name into consideration for the 2013-14 student member seat in February. Up against eight other applicants, he was one of two finalists chosen through an interview process with school system staff. On April 23, he was elected with 21,204 votes from students in grades six through 11, and on Thursday, July 11, he was officially sworn into his seat by Assistant Clerk of the Court Wayne Robey.
"It's exciting," Corvah said. "I knew I was ready to run, and I think I can do a good job in the capacity of the student board member."
As student board member, Corvah will not be able to vote on budget or personnel matters, but he will be able to vote on school system policies, which means he'll be the voice of the more than 50,000 students in the school system.
"Students are the reason we have a Board of Education in the first place," he said. "We're what make the school system. The board needs a student voice, a person who interacts the most with those other students."
As the board's student member, Corvah said he'll act as a liaison between the board and the many student advocate organizations, including the Howard County Association of Student Councils, Student Government Associations and Voices for Change.
"To have a student perspective benefits everyone," Corvah said. "That's why this is so important."
Since deciding in the seventh grade he one day wanted to serve on the school board, Corvah has held numerous leadership roles. He was Howard High's 2012-13 junior class president and has participated in service trips to Appalachia for St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Columbia.
Corvah said he traces his drive to serve to his family upbringing.
"I've always had a sense of service instilled in me," he said. "I grew up learning that it's the best thing — that it's better to give rather than receive. Throughout school, people have always talked to me about my voice and what my voice can do. I want to speak up, to advocate for people. My voice and my sense of service made me think I would be good for public service."
Ronnie Bohn, adviser of the Howard County Association of Student Councils, said Corvah is enthusiastic about the job, and his past leadership experience and skills have prepared him to work on the board.
"He has the personality to engage students in discussion so he can have their input, know their outlook," she said. "He seems well-matched for this kind of a position, and he has a grasp on the amount of responsibility this job entails. Because he's a good communicator, he'll also be able to take what the school system has in mind and explain it to students. He has an ability to grasp the big picture and communicate it to others."
Corvah said he is grateful for the chance to give back to his community by serving on the school board.
"Everyone has the potential to do great things," he said. "This service helps the community as a whole because by giving of yourself, you might give someone else a chance to positively affect their community."