Q&A: Get To Know Upper School Senate Candidates

Edan Zinn, Outgoing Editor-in-Chief

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  • Ayanna Jefferson ’22 is running for Senate President.

  • Charles McLaughlin ’22 runs on Wheat Thins.

  • Neel Kumar ’22 is running for Senate President.

  • Owen Williams ’23 is running for Senate Vice President.

  • Sylvia Tejada ’23 is running for Senate Vice President.

  • Sophia Spring ’22 is running for Senate Treasurer.

  • Sophia Bruno ’23 is running for Senate Treasurer.

  • Tahina Trias-Lizama ’22 is running for Senate Secretary.

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Later this month, elections will occur for Upper School Senate positions held during the 2021-2022 academic year. Of those who have announced their candidacy, Ayanna Jefferson ’22, Charles McLaughlin ’22, and Neel Kumar ’22 are running for Senate President. In 10th grade, Sylvia Tejada ’23 and Owen Williams ’23 are candidates for Vice President. Sophia Spring ’23 and Sophia Bruno ’22 are running for Treasurer. Running opposed for Secretary is Tahina Trias-Lizama ’22.

What campaign platform are you running on?

Ayanna Jefferson: I plan on including any ideas from other students as best I can so that all students feel that they can have a say in the student body, even if they may not be a part of it.

Charles McLaughlin: I’m all about getting every student’s voice heard and always have been. Since day one, that has been my goal. While we’ve definitely made progress in the past few years, I know a lot of people feel that the Senate isn’t something that they have access to, and my number one goal is changing that.

Neel Kumar: The main thing I will do as President is focusing on the student body’s mental health. Due to the pandemic, most of us have felt some version of anxiety this year. I have struggled with this too. I will make it my top priority to make sure our student body feels mentally and physically safe. That is why I am going to be adding Wellness Days. Wellness Days will be a day when students would have light homework, no homework, a half-day, or a no-school day to work on our mental health and well-being. Doing this will give us breaks throughout the school year for us to reset and bring our anxiety down. This will occur either every month, every other month, or sporadically throughout the year.

Sylvia Tejada: I really want to focus on listening to people and their opinions on Brimmer and how we can improve. I feel like with many schools, students have concerns but never choose to speak up either because they’re too scared to or because they don’t think it’s an “important” enough problem. I want to change that and work with the future president to implement ways for students to feel comfortable enough to speak up about problems, no matter how big or small. 

Owen Williams: I love the community that I am a part of at Brimmer and May and want to see the full potential of Brimmer being met. I have been at Brimmer for over a decade, and through those many years, I have made sure to be as active in as many aspects of Brimmer as I possibly can. This has informed me on what Brimmer is doing, and what it can work to achieve. I am currently campaigning on various social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat, and I also plan on campaigning in person at school.

Why are you running for senate, and why are you qualified for this position?

Jefferson: I am running for Senate because at a time like this it is so critical that minorities can see representation to show that anything is possible. I am qualified for this position because I have been in Senate before, and because through my time at Brimmer, I have seen many Presidents and know what it is I can do to make sure that both students and Senate can produce results that better the Upper School.

Tejada: In the past 3 years that I’ve been at Brimmer, I have been part of Senate as a classroom representative. I feel that I am prepared enough to run for a position that requires more responsibility and I want a new challenge for myself. Not only do I have experience but I am hardworking and I work very well with others, which is why I think I am qualified to be Vice President.

Sophia Bruno: I am a new student here, and I would like to get more involved in the Brimmer community and meet more people. I am qualified for this position because I am responsible and good with numbers, so I will responsibly handle the Senate’s budget.

As we approach the finish line of the COVID-19 pandemic, how will you help to build community at Brimmer?

Kumar: One of the ways I will rebuild camaraderie is by creating “Family Frenzy” and Wellness Days. Family Frenzy will be a yearlong event where the Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools will be divided into multiple “families” and compete in various ways, such as a dodgeball tournament, trivia, dance battle, and other activities that you can pitch in, as well for prizes throughout the year. Doing this will help rebuild our community as the Upper School and also as a whole school.

Williams: If I am elected, I plan to enter the new school year with events in mind to give students a chance to get to know one another, especially those who missed out on interaction with students in other grades. I also hope to bring back a lunch once a week where students sit at randomly assigned tables in the hopes of breaking the ice between students of different grades.

Sophia Spring: Because we have not had many events this year, next year’s events will mean so much. I know everyone in Senate will have big plans to celebrate, and I am excited to make sure everything goes smoothly. I want to make sure that every dollar of the Senate budget is thought about and fairly distributed toward what will make the most people happy. Something I hope to do differently next year is to actually have events and fundraisers to budget for!

What do you enjoy most about being a part of the Brimmer community?

McLaughlin: From the moment I first attended an open house here at Brimmer, I knew it was for me. The community, the way everyone knows everyone else, really is something. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Williams: Without a doubt, my favorite thing about the Brimmer and May community is how open we are to change. What I mean by this is if anyone wants to voice their opinion on a topic or problem, we will always hear them out and make sure all students feel as comfortable at Brimmer as possible. The faculty and staff make it their true mission to form bonds with their students and get to know who they really are.

Bruno: The thing I most enjoy about being a part of the Brimmer community is how tight-knit it is and how supportive everyone is. I can’t wait to see everyone smiling once we can stop wearing masks.

What are some of your interests outside of academics and Senate?

McLaughlin: I’ve been a member of Journalism for a while, and my main focus beyond that has been the Gator Robotics team. While unfortunately, I have been unable to make the team a reality this year due to COVID, I will hopefully be able to restore it for next year. If anyone is interested in joining, let me know anytime.

Tejada: I love to relax and hang out with family and friends. Some of my interests are traveling, meditation, journaling, and photography!

Spring: I love Cross County and video making. I make lots of video content for The Gator. 

What is one thing about you that people might not know?

McLaughlin: I have a twin brother who looks exactly like me, but I’m cooler than him (If you ever meet him and he says otherwise, don’t believe it for a second).

Jefferson: I would love to live in Canada someday!

Kumar: I love Chipotle and dream about owning the Chipotle Black Card.

Editors’ Note: Interviews have been edited for clarification purposes.