Courtesy of MoCoCouncilMD youtube channel
On Weds. April 22, Councilmember Tom Hucker and Lynn Harris, hosted a virtual student town hall that allowed student activist groups to introduce their agenda and to answer questions that students had about how Montgomery County is handling the school closures.
Councilman Hucker has held a couple of town halls but this was his first student run one. The town hall started at seven pm on Zoom, with over 100 students from sixteen different highschools in the county joining in. Activist groups such as Moco 4 Change and Moco Pride were in attendance along with six other student groups. All of these groups had 1 or 2 representatives on the call. Along with the student activists, student newspapers were also welcome to participate in the town hall.
Former SMOB Ananya Tadikonda was the moderator of the meeting, with councilman Hucker as her co-host. She started off the night by introducing all of the people that were participating in the call.
The SMOB elections were supposed to be held on April 22, but have now been moved to May 20. Both SMOB candidates, Nick Asante and Vicky Kidder were in attendance, and introduced themselves and their campaigns. They both have adapted their platform around the current crisis and Asante advocated for equity in technological resources for students.
After the SMOB candidates introduced themselves, all of the student organizations had an opportunity to identify their top priorities for their organization. The majority of student organizations are utilizing social media to spread their message and provide resources to students. Moco Pride has created a program called “Moco Pride speaks out, while inside” to provide opportunities for students to get together in a safe space. It has included mental health forums, movies, a book club and an art show.
“I really enjoyed participating in the town hall, it was great to hear from so many like minded student organizations, who a lot of whom we have participated with in the past, so it was great to hear their stances and what they’re doing during COVID-19,” president and founder of Moco Pride Uma Fox said.
These introductions lasted about an hour, and then a half an hour of the Town Hall was dedicated to the questions of student journalists and students from around the county. Journalists entered their questions into the chat or unmuted their audio and asked their questions, while students who wanted to ask questions were able to enter them in the Q and A section of the call or could call into the chat. The questions could be answered by any of the organizations and typically multiple organizations would answer one question.
“The town hall was certainly an unusual format but it worked well enough in the end,” Joel Lev-Tov, Editor-in-Chief of the Springbrook Blueprint said. “It was a little difficult to ask my questions, I noticed that I had to be a little more pushy than usual, so I can imagine that it was a challenge for less outgoing journalists to get their questions in. This format, while imperfect and somewhat clumsy, is actually more accessible to everyone, though, so it’s worth considering keeping these formats.”
The town hall was very informative and provided information ranging from the distance learning to discussions about the pass/fail systems. It allowed students from all around the county to have open discussions and get answers to questions that were important to them.
“One of the things I really appreciated about the event was its emphasis on student leadership,” Fox said. “So having student reporters, having student leaders, having a college student as the moderator, so it really was a space both for adults to hear about our views and also for students to interact together about advocacy.”