Q&A: 21-year-old UH student running for Cy-Fair school board
A UH political science junior is running for the Cypress-Fairbanks ISD board of trustees.
In a post on his Instagram, Ryan C. Irving Jr., 21, declared his candidacy to his followers. The Cy-Fair ISD graduate said he hopes this campaign will allow other young people see they can help their communities in a multitude of ways, including running for office.
Irving, if elected, would not be the first UH student to serve on a local school board. While still in high school Mike Floyd, now a UH political science junior as well, ran and won a seat on the Pearland school board.
The Cougar sat down with him to discuss what made him decide to run and his plans up until and after Nov. 5, 2019, when the election will take place.
The Cougar: When did you decide you wanted to run for Cy-Fair School Board?
Ryan Irving: When I really knew I wanted to run was probably right after spring break. I’ve been thinking about it for about a year, well I’ve been thinking about a lot of different things for about a year. I really wanted to give back to my community, and I was thinking about the best way to serve my community. I realized that I believe school board is the best way.
I’ve lived in Cy-Fair for about 19 years now. I’m a product of the school system. I grew up in the school system. I believe that’s extremely important because neither of my opponents went to Cy-Fair, but of course they’ve been doing a lot more volunteering than me. I always say it’s better to do less work and know your constituents better than to volunteer and to not really know the system.
I think a person who can better represent someone, is someone who went through the school system, that he or she is trying to represent. That’s very important to me. A lot of the time trustees will pass things on the board and they’ll have a grand affect on classroom environments. I’m the only person in this race that actually knows what those policies and how they transfer into a classroom environment.
You want someone who can represent your children, represent your teachers. I’ve definitely grown from a 5, 6-year-old boy, into a 21-year-old man, because I went through this system. If it wasn’t for Cy-Fair, I probably wouldn’t be running today. I’m very prideful about where I came from, and I just want to give back and continue to be there for others who were there for me.
TC: You can help your community in other ways, why do you want to run for school board to help your community?
Irving: I call myself an educational activist. I believe education is not valued that much in this country, and I want to change that. I want to bring education as a focal point to, when people ask, “What is one of the most important things about the United States?” It’s always our military, which I agree with, but then after that you hear stuff like the environment, infrastructure — but education is never really a focal point.
I think we need to bring to the table that education is important because that is the foundation of our democracy. The foundation of our country is our children. Our children are going to be the majority one day and we want to make sure that we are going to implement policies and put a focal point around education, so when they’re my age or older than me they’ve had that structure.
TC: If you were elected what would you do?
Irving: Well the first thing I would do is take my trustee classes that are required, and any other classes that maybe are not required. I want to take as many classes as I can so I can preform the best job for my school district, my community, as possible. The second thing I would do is to start building trustee relations.
On my questionnaire on Cy-Fair, one of the questions was, “How important do you think trustee relationships are?” I believe they are extremely important, because it’s not a dictatorship where I’m just one person, and I can pass all these things by myself. I have to work with my fellow trustee members to not only build a relationship, but build a relationship where if we don’t see eye-to-eye we can still find common ground.
TC: How are you going to win?
Irving: I plan to win by a grassroots effort. I believe that’s extremely important. I don’t believe my opponents are taking me seriously. I believe they think it’s cute I’m running but they’re not taking me seriously at all. I plan to go around to nursing homes, old folk communities and really connect with constituents who are going to be voting for me the most.
I want to tell them, you can vote for the same old same old, or you can vote for somebody that when you child looks up at them — that trustee sitting on the board, they can see themselves. I believe that’s extremely important, for the trustee to be a mentor in the community. Who better to mentor somebody than somebody not that far away (in age) from that child.
Would you rather want a 21-year-old man sitting with your child, mentoring them, where your child can see their future in me or would you rather have your child look up to a 65-year-old, 64-year-old man or a 40-year-old man. It’s all about who is more relatable. With all the things I’ve gone through in life I believe I am the most relatable candidate and the most qualified.
TC: How are you going to get teachers and students to vote for you?
Irving: I’m going to get teachers to vote for me by reaching out to them. I’m going to tell them them this isn’t a game, I want to be there for you. I believe teachers are one of the focal points of society.
I believe when we mention our policy makers, our service men and women, teachers should be mentioned as well. They do a bunch of stuff they aren’t required to do. They stay after with children until 5, 6 o’clock sometimes, they spend hundreds of dollars on school supplies — those are things they don’t have to do.
Just like teachers, I’m going to get students to vote for me by, number one, going to them. Number two, by telling them that this campaign is yours, yes you’re electing me, but at the same time you’re electing yourselves.
We are the same. We’re not that far apart, at 18 and 21. We came from the same school district, we come from the same community, and I believe I’m going to get people together by doing 200, 300 people block walks. Having a bunch of kids just being involved with their political climate.
TC: How are you going to juggle going to school and working for the school board at the same time?
I’m going to juggle it the same way that the people who have ran for school board juggle a marriage, children, a 9-5 job. I’m going to do it the same way they’ve been doing it. To be honest with you, me being on the school board, and me being a college student I believe I’ll have a lot more time than my fellow trustee members.
People believe school is extremely time consuming, but I’m the type of person who likes to study ahead. The syllabus tells you what you need to do from now until class ends.
I’m not really going to call it juggling. I believe I’ll be fine. Other people have done it before. Other people are sitting in offices higher than me and have been in school at the same time. I believe everything will work out just fine.