(Middletown)-Last May Roy Paul made history when, at 19 years old, he was elected to the Enlarged Middletown School District Board of Education.
On May 16th, one day after he celebrated his 20th birthday and about one year into his term, he agreed to an interview to check up and fill in on his busy, often public, life.
"I represent other young individuals who want to get involved in politics," said Paul. He explained what should be obvious, if politicians do what they say they will when elected, if they truly represent the people, then things can be accomplished. Therein lies his interest.
Paul who says, "I was always involved in politics," met resistance when he decided to run for the board of education his senior year of high school. "The board of education didn’t really want students to get involved," he said.
That was right after the Robert Sigler scandal, the board was not ready for another shake-up.
But Paul, who says he cannot get enough of CNN politics, was persistent. "They were hiding information," he said. "We wanted to open lines of communication."
And Paul made sure he did just that. Literally. "I gave students my personal email and cell number," he said, now wondering if that was a bit extreme. "I bring up their concerns at the board meetings."
One concern is the lack of diversity in the Middletown school system’s administration. With a large minority population the lack of representation, according to Paul, is disturbing. He described a student-uproar after the only minority administrator was laid-off as a result of restructuring. Paul was unsure how the school’s affirmative action program worked, but promised to read-up.
Paul believes he is successfully fulfilling his promise of representing younger generations, but he feels a lot of pressure. As the first student-board-member he is setting a precedent. He means to show students and administration alike a person of his years can be credibly involved in the decision making process.
Yet being the youngest on the board has not always been easy. "I was treated differently," Paul said, explaining he was denied privileges such as driving city cars despite being covered under the district’s insurance policy. He said he is not always taken seriously, but laughed adding he does not always take himself seriously.
Despite no access to district-cars, there is no doubt Paul is getting around.
"I’m on the board of RECAP," he said, explaining that stands for, Regional Economic Community Action Program and the organization provides assistance to low-income families. Paul acts as liaison between RECAP and Headstart, a family and child development program. Smiling, Paul said he was in Headstart as a child.
Paul is on the Orange County Youth Bureau, "I sit on the propriety committee," he said. He is also in the fore-front of an effort to resurrect the Middletown branch of the NAACP and involved with the local Democratic Party.
It is easy to forget Paul, who is dressed in a red and white button down shirt, a tie black slacks, and carries a briefcase with rows of immaculately arranged business cards, is also a college student. He is currently enrolled at SUNY Orange but plans to transfer locally. "If I leave Middletown it excludes me from the board," said Paul.
For now Paul’s cell phone number remains on his business card and he seems content where he is. "What I want to do next I don’t know," said Paul, making it clear it would not be a stretch for his name to appear on future ballots or atop other socially active boards.