SMOB Candidates Campaign on HOCO Reforms


After much effort and hard work, Peter Banyas, a junior from Howard High School, and Dhruvi Mirani, a junior from Glenelg High School, have been nominated as the 2 running candidates for this year’s SMOB (Student Member of the Board).
The elected SMOB candidate acts as the student representation for the Board of Education. There is only one SMOB member on the Board, and an election takes place once every year. This year’s election will be held in May. The SMOB represents all of the students in Howard County. Both Banyas and Mirani have worked incredibly hard to earn their nominations.
Mirani has served 3 years at the top of the Glenelg’s Class of 2022 Student Government Association. As Co-Captain of Glenelg Debate and former Vice President of Glenelg Democrats, Mirani has had his hand in many groups. He served on a student task force that addressed the flooding that had impacted Ellicott City’s infrastructure, where they saw their Emergency Public Alert System adapted for public use. Mirani has also worked with public health and legal experts from Johns Hopkins University Center for Gun Policy in a bid to reduce gun violence.
Banyas has served 2 years on the Legislative Affairs Committee and has had his hand in helping draft a policy with intentions that protects the students’ right to demonstrate. Banyas also started the Annual Martha’s Table Donation Drive, which helps put food on the tables of those less fortunate in Washington, D.C. He has also recently started running monthly Den Discussions, where he invites students and staff to promote real discussions.
“I believe we need to make our educational system more active. The school system should do more than teach us equations; we need to learn how to be well-rounded, engaged members of society! One aspect of that is engaging with the issues of our time. I’m advocating for conversations and debates to be integrated into our social studies curriculum so that all students get the opportunity to research two sides of a topic and respectfully debate it,” Banyas said. He wants the curriculum to have more integrated aspects that focus on the aspects of life, so that students can better prepare themselves for adulthood and the challenges that come with it.
Mirani strongly believes and advocates for the student voice. “I’ll work with the Howard County Association of Student Councils to commission a school-system wide, editorially-independent newspaper with a fact section and an opinion section. In the fact-section, students can read and write about things like what student organizations are working on,” he said. This new newspaper will be an outlet for students to be able to express themselves and share their thoughts and opinions with their peers.
Being able to manage money in a smart way is a great life skill, and Banyas believes that it should be implemented more in school in order to make sure students are career ready. “I will advocate for financial literacy to be offered as a course option so that students have the opportunity to learn how to manage their money, a critical skill that currently just comes down to who your parents are,” he said. Certain important aspects are being neglected by the school system, and their additions could greatly benefit students who partake in them.
As important as the student voice is, there are those out there who wish to silence them. “One issue that exacerbates all others is the threat to the student voice posed by attacks on the SMOB’s voting rights. I’m pleased that one lawsuit attempting to strip these rights failed, but another still looms. The integrity of the Student Member of the Board position is fundamental to promoting students’ voices,” Mirani said. Students being able to voice their concerns is a fundamental aspect of upholding a true and fair learning environment, and Mirani seeks to uphold this.
Howard County has recently seen a spike in mental health related issues due to Covid, which Banyas hopes to address. “Mental Health is the most pervasive issue facing our students, and it’s only gotten worse with Covid. In addition to adequately funding psychologists and counselors, I plan to implement Mental Health Roundtables at every school, based loosely on an event we ran at Howard [High School] pre-Covid,” he said. The plan is to have this available for all students to attend during their Flex Times. The roundtables encourage student to student conversations, as students relate best with other students. This acts as a place where people can discuss issues they are facing and destress with their peers.
Personal connections are also very important to establish among students. “As SMOB, I will constantly seek student input to make sure that I’m representing all students. Students also need to know, though, that their next SMOB cares about all of the issues on a personal level and can think for themself,” Mirani said. Having an awareness of a wide range of student opinions and preferences when making important decisions is a great way to ensure that those decisions meet the overall satisfaction of everyone.
The SMOB election is a great way for students to get involved in the community and vote for someone they think most embody their interests. If elected, Banyas hopes to make the education system more well rounded and to cover more life skills, such as financial literacy. He also hopes to tackle issues surrounding mental health by having student to student roundtables where they can destress. Mirani strongly emphasizes the importance of the student voice, and wishes to establish a newspaper for this to flourish, after all, the school system is meant for our benefit. Mirani is also a strong advocate for the mental health issue plaguing so many students.
The SMOB election allows for students’ opinions to be heard and appreciated when important issues are addressed and big decisions are made. This year’s voting process will be sent out virtually on Canvas and it will be a great way for students to empower their voices and vote.