School Committee rookie, 16, hears from pro: ‘Ask questions’
“Ask questions.” That was the advice Mayor Thomas Menino passed onto the Boston School Committee’s newest member: Ayomide Olumuyiwa, a 16-year-old Mattapan resident who attends the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science in Roxbury.
Menino met Olumuyiwa – who goes by the nickname “Ayo” – at City Hall last week. The new student representative, selected by the Boston Student Advisory Council, does not have a vote, but he is allowed to weigh in frequently on topics the School Committee takes up.
“Every day, listen,” Menino added as they sat inside his fifth floor office, joined by Ayo’s father, Bola, School Committee chairman Michael O’Neill, interim Superintendent John McDonough, and other school department officials. “They get right to the point,” McDonough said of past student representatives. “They know what to ask.”
Asked by Menino about his summer, Ayo said he went to Chicago to visit friends. “That’s a good summer; I went to Chelsea a few times,” said the mayor. “What about Everett?” O’Neill joked, a subtle aside about Menino’s warring with his counterpart in Everett over a rival casino proposal. Menino is backing a casino in East Boston. “No, they won’t let me in,” Menino responded.
Olumuyiwa, who is of Nigerian descent, said that while he was serving on the advisory council he worked on revising the student code of conduct and lobbied against a bill at the State House lifting the cap on charter schools. “Charter schools don’t work for everybody, he said. “We’re not saying charter schools are bad,” he added. “We should get more funding in public schools.”
Bola Olumuyiwa has worked as an engineer at Gillette for 25 years and his son plans to go to college and major in technology and engineering. But the young man is also drawn to community organizing and getting young people involved. “As youth, most don’t feel like they have enough power,” he said. “But that’s our prime right here, before we reach adulthood.”