The trajectory of Brandon Pugh’s life could have looked so much different.
For the first several years of his childhood, he couldn’t speak. His family took him to see doctor after doctor, none of whom had answers. They told the Pughs their son might never speak—in all likelihood, he wouldn’t—and he might have to be under adult supervision for the rest of his life.
Then one day, when he was 6, he started talking. And all the other pieces fell into place.
“I guess you could link my service to that,” Pugh said. “I was told I’d never overcome that, and as a result, since I did, I kind of look for ways to give back, cause I view it as being very fortunate to be able to speak now … I was blessed so much. It’s probably the origin of why I serve.”
Pugh, 19, has —volunteer/paid EMT, former president of the Community Alliance on Substance Awarness, headed up the Interact Club at the —so it’s no surprise (to those who know him) he’s now running for school board, seeking one of three open seats this year.
Having just graduated in June, Pugh’s memories of his positive experience in the district are still fresh. He wants to preserve those qualities which make the district special for future students.
“This is really my way to give back to the school district,” he said. “I really think it is—not just cause I live in Moorestown and I’m a graduate—but I really think it is one of the best … (I want) to ensure what I enjoyed in the town, in the schools, can be continued for students to come.”
Pugh has already started his campaign, reaching out to the community by attending public meetings for various groups in town almost daily. For those who don’t make it to meetings, there will be a door-knocking, hand-shaking component to Pugh’s campaign as well.
Though his reputation in town is —“I’ve made it known around town, if there was a need, no matter what it was, I’d be willing to help out”—Pugh is prepared for the critics who will say he’s too young, too inexperienced, to hold public office and make decisions affecting thousands of taxpayers. But in his mind, his age is an asset.
“The (school) board, to have an effect, there needs to be different perspectives and people with different backgrounds,” he said. “I feel since I’m not far removed from the school, I really have a different perspective … I would have the advantage of looking from the inside and experiencing the policies they’ve been shaping.”
While rare, there is precedence in New Jersey for electing young people, including teens, to boards of education.
And Pugh added he already has experience doing some of the things the current school board members are called upon to do: As a member of the school council at the high school (a group of students, parents and faculty—not to be confused with student council), he helped design curriculum and brainstorm ideas to move the high school forward; he was director of curriculum at an American school in Buenos Aires one summer four years ago; and he’s the coordinator of youth and collegiate service (his full-time job) in the governor’s office of volunteers, where he’s involved in overseeing community service efforts at schools across the state.
Pugh believes the district needs to work on its communication, specifically with taxpayers who don’t have children in school, as well as pursue alternative revenue sources (advertising on buses, corporate sponsorships at athletic fields) and look into the possibility of a township television channel for broadcasting meetings and sporting events.
Pugh has said this year—in part, because it could disrupt his and others’ campaigns, but mainly on the grounds that it would also take away voters’ right to vote on the budget. But he said if the school makes the shift, it won’t alter his plans.
For more information and to check out his schedule of appearances, visit Pugh’s campaign website.
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