Meet a junior statesman

In a world where teenagers are often viewed as self-centered, self-indulgent, disrespectful and irresponsible, De’Vante Montgomery shines forth as a beacon of light.

De’Vante is fifteen years old and president of the tenth grade at Winton Woods High School. I first met him on May 16, 2012 at the Forest Park Organizing For America Field Office, where he is an intern for President Obama’s re-election.
It didn’t take long to realize De’Vante was highly motivated, extremely personable, super smart and loaded with leadership skills.

De’Vante was in the process of soliciting the funds and support necessary to attend the Junior State of America (JSA) Presidential Election 2012 Symposium at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. At the symposium, the convention is the classroom for JSA high school students from across the country.

JSA, founded in 1934, is non-profit, non-partisan, and offers a similar symposium at the Republican National Convention. JSA provides civics education and leadership programs in schools and summer programs at Georgetown, Princeton and Stanford Universities for high schoolers.

Fast forward to September 27, 2012 at Winton Woods High School where De’Vante Montgomery addressed a library full of fellow students, teachers, school leaders, the Mayor of Forest Park, family and friends about his experience in Charlotte.

De’Vante’s presentation was filled with optimism about his generation and the future.

De’Vante said, “They call us the lost generation.” He described the forty nine other Convention Symposium Junior Statesmen, a diverse, nation-wide group of young leaders, as anything but lost. He said, “I met a lot of young people that I know will change the world with me one day. When I hear people say that my generation is lost, I think about those faces that I have seen, the stories that I heard, the trials and tribulations that have been shared. I begin to realize that this is the future and the greatness of our nation”
De’Vante said, “When I heard the First Lady speak about what her husband was doing to make America… America again, I began to realize what it means to be an American. She talked about unity and peace…It touched me and finalized my dream to become America’s President…My
American dream is echoed throughout the homes, schools, and workplaces of America. I have so much faith that tomorrow will be a brighter day.”

De’Vante and other JSA high schoolers are acquiring the skills and knowledge necessary to be active, informed, and responsible citizens, voters and leaders.

Building on the energy and promise of Barack Obama’s election and re-election campaign, De’Vante’s millennial generation is finding ways to address America’s complicated history and future on their own terms. Because of  their familiarity with and increasing expertise in the fields of communication, media, and digital technologies, no generation is better prepared to take on the challenges of the day.

De’Vante pleaded, “Don’t give up on my generation.”

I sure won’t. I believe this group will have a transformative impact on our communities. And as De’Vante exemplifies, they’re not waiting for anybody to give them permission to lead.

(first published October 10, 2012)

Richard O. Schwab was formerly associate head of school, and middle school
head, Cincinnati Country Day School. He is founder of Glendale Organizing
For America Community Team