When Shiva Rajbhandari went to the polls to vote for members of his school board last September, he was extra excited. Shiva had just turned 18, so it was the first time he was eligible to vote. But there was an even bigger reason the day felt momentous: Shiva’s own name was on the ballot.
By the time the votes were counted that night, Shiva had a third reason to be thrilled: He’d made history by becoming the youngest member of his school board in the state’s history. A school board is a group of local citizens who help create policies and goals for the area’s public schools. Shiva was the first student appointed to the board. “I was watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with my friends when we heard the results,” the high school senior recalls. “I was stunned.”
Shiva has been politically active since the seventh grade, when a science class sparked his interest in climate change. Over the years he’s also taken up causes such as gun violence prevention and voting rights. Along the way, he realized that running for his school board was the perfect way to advocate for issues facing teens like him.
“The school board is one of your most local forms of government. It’s the most direct form of democracy we have, so your vote really counts,” he says.