While many high schoolers will be working or vacationing over the summer break, NHS senior-to-be Nathan Dominguez will spend at least part of his time doing something a little less typical — campaigning.
Though it isn't a new experience for Dominguez — who has previously helped with the campaigns of county, state and federal candidates (such as Greg Nickel, Tim Hodge and James Thompson) — this time it's personal, as he recently filed his candidacy for election to the Newton Board of Education.
Also active in last year's March for Lives and part of the Newton Community for Racial Justice, Dominguez has been regularly attending school board meetings this year — and it was something easily noticeable that led him to seek a seat on the school board.
"One thing that's always stood out is that lack of representation there and I think it's important that we have board members — in an area that's about 17% Hispanic and a student body that's 30% Hispanic — like me up there being able to represent our views," Dominguez said.
Referencing an article by The Kansan, Dominguez pointed out the current employment numbers and how they fail to represent the diversity in the schools (with one Hispanic administrator and two Hispanic teachers currently serving in USD 373) — as well as it being more than a decade since a minority member served on the Newton BOE.
Those numbers, compounded with the handling of some incidents this school year, helped fuel a desire within Dominguez to run for a position on the school board. Namely, he pointed to a situation where a fellow student wore a bandana as part of a coordinated protest against racial discrimination — an act recounted to him that led the said student to be banned from wearing it by administration, which stated it was gang paraphernalia. Dominguez had no words for that response from school leadership, but he saw a path of action moving forward to help bring a more representative voice into such situations.
"For me, growing up, I never really had a lot of teachers that looked like me or people who I could look up to at the front of the room in that authority position that I could say that really represented me or that knew the stuff that I had gone through in my community," Dominguez said. "My being a candidate and hopefully being elected to the school board, I hope to be able to sort of provide that person that they can look up to for a lot of the younger children who are growing up today."
Along with his focus on bringing broader representation to the school board, Dominguez has additional goals aimed at addressing mental health among the student body, such as ensuring access to services and taking a proactive approach, while also hoping to create a safer, more nurturing environment for minority and LGBTQ+ students.
Mental health is something Dominguez has personal experience with — dealing with depression and seeking out help from within the school as well as from Prairie View. He has seen the need for services firsthand.
On top of that, Dominguez also wants to keep support of teachers a priority given the industry trends.
"It's one of the professions with the greatest turnover rate," Dominguez said. "When we invest so much into our teachers only to see them leave our school two or three years later, then that's really a drain on our resources. I'd really like to see our teachers stay here longer."
Goal-oriented as he is, there is a lot of campaigning ahead for Dominguez before the day of the election and earning a potential seat on the school board.
Having worked on those previous campaigns, Dominguez knows what that is like, though, and he looks forward to getting to know his potential constituents and possibly having the opportunity to serve them.
"I care about the community. The education system here is what brought me to this point; it's what made me the person that I am," Dominguez said. "So, to be able to volunteer my time and serve on the Board of Education just seems like one of the ways that I can give back for what the community has given me."
Board members will be voted upon in the general election on Nov. 5, 2019, and the candidate filing deadline is noon on June 3. All candidates must file in the county clerk's office at the Harvey County Courthouse.