On April 23, junior Hana O’Looney was elected as Montgomery County Public School’s 44th Student Member of the Board (SMOB). This year’s race for SMOB was undoubtedly unlike any other, but Hana managed to gain the support of students with an entirely virtual campaign. “Instead of walking your halls and passing out stickers, I attended your zooms and duetted your TikToks” said Hana in regards to her virtual campaign.
Prior to her campaign for SMOB, Hana had already become quite familiar with the Montgomery County community. Working in positions such as president of the Montgomery County Junior Council and vice president of the Montgomery County Regional Student Government Association, Hana has been involved in the fight for education equity for quite some time. She has also given numerous testimonies at Board of Education meetings on various topics such as menstrual equity—an example of a principal issue she hopes to focus on come next school year.
After announcing her candidacy for SMOB on January 5th, Hana quickly outlined three key areas she wanted to focus on within her campaign.Those being student welfare, the opportunity gap, and the pandemic. Her plans for ‘student welfare’ cover a wide range of topics affecting students daily such as racial justice, sexual assault, school lunches, mental health, student disabilities, LGBTQ+ equity, and more. She wants to make “structural change in MCPS's student input system” in regards to all of these divisions. In terms of the opportunity gap, Hana has said she wants to work to make materials and experiences accessible across numerous demographics to ensure that every student has an equal opportunity to an exceptional education. Hana explains how the “opportunity gap is what got me interested in educational equity and advocacy many years ago, and this will be one of the biggest issues I plan to focus on during my term.” Within this branch of focus, Hana will center on preparation for college and careers, resources, and student opportunities. A topic which cannot be ignored, COVID-19, has also been at the forefront of Hana’s campaign. She has outlined a suggested plan for MCPS both prior to reopening as well as the after reopening. The focal point of her ‘before reopening’ plan is to combat learning loss after school closures due to COVID-19. This includes creating “personalized remedial learning plans for every student.” She also believes that MCPS needs to expand the available mental health resources for students and families prior to reopening after the hardships endured as a result of the pandemic.After reopening, newly elected SMOB Hana, believes that schools should “monitor students’ wellbeing, including both physical and mental health,” and later follow up by curating individualized plans based on students. She also believes that MCPS should continue to give families the option of learning from home—taking into account varying household situations. Further, Hana wants to work to provide families and students with essential services such as meals and healthcare at no additional cost.
During her campaign, Hana received strong endorsements from former SMOB, Nate Tinbite, Richard Montgomery High School Student Newspaper Editorial Board, and MoCo ConNECts (Student Advocacy Group from the Northeast Consortium- Blake HS, Springbrook HS, and Paint Branch HS). In her election announcement, Hana thanked those who supported her and her “vision for a more equitable school system, ”which she looks forward to creating in the 2021-2022 school year.