Jamie Kendrick graduated from Howard High School barely three months ago, but he's already plotting his return to the county school system.
This time, the 18-year-old Elkridge resident wants to help run things and is laying plans to run for county school board in November of next year.
Never mind that he's only a freshman at the University of Maryland at College Park who just moved into a dorm room with his best friend from high school.
Already, Mr. Kendrick is knocking on Howard County doors to drum up votes. He has set up a campaign committee, staffed by his mother, former high school teachers, friends and neighbors.
And by February or March, he plans to file for election. He'd be one of the youngest people ever to run for elected office in the county.
"People my age can make a difference," said Mr. Kendrick, who plans to major in politics and government. "We can think logically and give rational insight into problems that our society faces."
Mr. Kendrick already has demonstrated a taste for politics and public policy as a student member on both the county and state school boards.
While on the state board, he unsuccessfully fought the state's student service requirement, which mandates that students complete 75 hours of community service by graduation.
But he also led a successful legislative fight that gave voting privileges to students on the state and Baltimore County school boards and expanded student voting rights in Montgomery County.
"They better not underestimate him," said Ed Andrews, vice president of the state board, in a warning to Mr. Kendrick's potential opponents.
He said that Mr. Kendrick was instrumental in persuading the legislature to grant voting rights to student board members, despite opposition from the state board.
"If he could get that thing through, he can accomplish anything," said Dr. Andrews.
As a full-fledged county school board member, Mr. Kendrick said he would encourage greater participation in the schools by parents and community members and push for curriculum custom-tailored to each student.
"We're not treating kids as individuals," said Mr. Kendrick. In middle school, he said, "I was very interested in government and politics, but there was no outlet."
Students need more opportunities to explore interests beyond the required core subjects of math, English and science, he said.
"We're not giving kids the opportunity to be creative and run with their creative minds," said Mr. Kendrick, who in recent years has served with various county, statewide and national groups dedicated to improving schools.
He also said that the schools should be able to rely on parents and the community for continuous support and involvement.
"We shouldn't bring them in only when they're mad," he said, citing the angry turnout ignited last school year by the transfers of more than 60 administrators and teachers.
One way to do that, he said, is to start board meetings later than the current 4 p.m., a time that prevents many working parents from attending.
As he develops his platform in coming months, Mr. Kendrick will be forced to juggle his budding political career with the demands of college life.
In his first semester of school, he is taking five liberal arts courses with a reading list of 18 books.
"I don't intend to coordinate the campaign," said Mr. Kendrick, who will rely heavily on his campaign committee. "My job is to be the candidate and meet people. I'll be hands-on, but I won't be involved in the nitty-gritty details of the campaign."
And Mr. Kendrick insists that his time on the county and state school boards during the past two years has taught him to manage the conflicting demands of school, family and friendships.
"I've learned a balancing act with my friends and my school. . . I think I can do it," he said.