Observer Sits Down With New SMOB Dahlia Huh

Catherine Goohs

Congratulations to Dahlia Huh on being elected SMOB.

By Catherine Goohs, Senior Writer

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Following her recent win for MCPS Student Member of the Board of Education (SMOB), the Observer sat down with Clarksburg High School junior, Dahlia Huh.

What inspired you to run for SMOB?

I got involved in student government in 7th grade and I took part in an election process. It was very eye opening to me, and so in 8th grade I took part in a county-wide SGA. SMOB has always been on my mind. When I decided to run for SMOB last year, I realized that being a student member of the Board of Education really is one of, if not the most opportune ways to actually make change for students and make a difference. On the Board of Education, you get to vote on policies, so it really is an influential position. I found that this job is where I can make the most difference, so that’s where I’d like to be my senior year, serving my students.

When did you first know you wanted to be actively involved in the Montgomery county community?

I don’t remember quite what it was, I think it was a poster in the hallway to plan a school dance or help out with the manna food drive center, something small, that caught my attention. Once you get involved, you get sucked into the entire process. On the middle school level, I got to do some advocacy on the county wide level, and then in high school, that’s when I got super involved: meeting board members, getting caught up on the latest policies, reading newspaper articles about the Board of Education. I found my passion in advocacy.

Your top priorities include getting SMOB full voting rights and implementing a scholarship/opportunities/resources database. How do you plan to carry out these initiatives?

Full SMOB voting rights is something we’ve been trying to get for what I’d like to say has been about 10 years, and in the past we’ve gotten very close. To get voting rights, it doesn’t just regard our county, but it also includes the Maryland State Legislature. We’ve gotten past the Maryland House of Representatives, but in the past it has failed once it reached the Senate, which has been very disheartening. This year there will be lots of changes in the Senate as some senators move out, retire or run for different positions, so the environment is making it very favorable to students. That’s why I think we have a good shot at getting full voting rights. Regardless, we still need to bring out dozens if not hundreds of students this year to Annapolis to get the state legislatures to know this is really important to us because it is important that SMOB not only gets to vote on half the issues, but all the issues. That way the SMOB can represent the students to the best of her abilities. We also did have voting rights about 20 years ago, so it is possible.

As for the scholarship/opportunities/resources database, in my past experiences in all the positions I’ve held, I’ve heard students say that they want to get involved in SGA or start a non profit or even start a club, but they don’t know how. I feel like a lot of the time students are stopped from achieving what they want to achieve because of a lot of bureaucratic red tape or wordy and unnecessary requirements that push students to the point where it doesn’t seem worth it anymore. What I intend to do with this online database is to create an easily accessible hub where MCPS students can find scholarships, job opportunities, SSL opportunities and other how-to’s like how to get involved in your SGA, how to make a school club, how to start a company from your basement or write your own book and publish it. I want students to be able to accomplish what they want to.

You’ve worked at all levels of education policy and advocacy, including local, county, state, and national. What are some challenges you’ve faced in your various roles as a delegate, regional SGA executive board member, workshop trainer and so on? What has been a challenge you have faced with?

I guess a challenge would be finding out what the difference is between different levels of education and finding out which issues are pertained with which level.

You’ve mentioned the phrase “It’s about time to become the best county in the nation.” How would you define being the best?

MCPS has done really, really well nationally. We are competing with counties in California and Florida and one thing that sets us apart from those counties is that we are much bigger and much more diverse. I think that what holds us back from being the best is a lot of red tape, so the scholarship and resource opportunities database should combat that issue. It will help high school students, and may be even over-achieving middle school students, achieve more.

Can you explain you tell me a little bit about the website Good50.com you and your sister co-founded?

I started Good50 with my sister three years ago and it has gone pretty far from there. When I was in 8th grade, I noticed my grandfather was having trouble using the search engines available like Google and Yahoo, because a lot of the time he’d click on advertisements in the search results. So together, my sister and I created the Good50 over a winter break. It uses a bigger font size and it is a bit more user friendly than other sites. Since we launched it about a year ago, it has had more than one million searches, so people are still using it today. My sister, who is a junior at the University of Maryland, and I still work on it when she comes home, but it’s pretty free standing. Whatever revenue we get we also donate 50% of to charitable causes, such as Red Cross and the Salvation Army. My sister did much of the coding for the site as she is more a math and science person and I’m more of an English person.

You also wrote a 350 page children’s novel, what is the story about and what compelled you to write?

It’s a children’s book (titled Gilbert and the Sceptor of Silence) for 6th and 7th graders. I wrote it with my sister too, we are very close, over this past summer. It got published in December. It is just about this boy who finds out there is a whole other world he didn’t know about. It’s an adventure book, similar to the Percy Jackson series. It was completely for fun, a way to take my mind off junior year and all the work that came with it.

How do you find the time to do it all?

I guess it’s really just about prioritizing. Writing a book was simply a way for me to blow off steam over the summer, but to take on a project like that during the school year? There would be absolutely no way. Right now during AP season it’s pretty hectic, but it’s all about priority. In 8th grade, I played tennis competitively and then my freshman year I took a break from the team and rejoined later. Since the start of high school, student advocacy has been my passion and I’ve dedicated a lot of my time and energy into looking into what kind of educational policy is weeping though our county and what the Board of Education is talking about. For me, that’s been priority number one since freshman year, and still is. I’m really grateful to be SMOB for I feel like I’ve found where I belong. I still sometimes pick up the tennis racket and hang out with my friends, but there have been a lot of sacrifices I’ve had to make, my grades have suffered a little bit and so did my music lessons. But student advocacy is my passion and I’m really willing to do anything for the students of Montgomery County.

What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned in all your experience? Do you have any advice for someone who too wants to get involved in bettering MCPS?

Do what you are very passionate about. If you are not passionate about it then you’ll never make it in the long run because it’s not something you love. Find out what you care so much about and just go for it. It sounds tacky and cheesy, but just do it. People will help you along the way. I’ve gotten so much help and support from my teachers and the administrators at my school and my classmates have been incredibly supportive and helpful. I wouldn’t have won this election without my campaign team.

Lastly, on your Facebook page you mentioned that you would be conducting more school visits. Do you know if CHS may be one of them?

Absolutely. CHS is one of the bigger schools so I’m planning on hitting that school again. One of my goals for next year is to try and hit at least half of the middle and high schoolers. During part of my campaign, I visited 60/64 middle and high schools, so hopefully I can visit the schools I haven’t been to this past couple of months. I definitely would like to visit CHS again and set up some kind of forum or student town hall so I can get to know what’s going on at CHS and what kind of issues are important to its students.