Marlana Edwards, Howard University News Service
Washington’s youngest mayoral candidate, Michael Christian Woods, has plans to implement a series of programs within DC Public Schools (DCPS) that will help K-12 students to develop life skills, social skills and a familiarity with entrepreneurship.
"These programs are designed to help students to feel comfortable at school, and to prepare students for the world after graduation," he said.
Woods, 19, who is a political science and Africana studies double major at George Washington University, believes that an effort must be made to ensure that DCPS students become more engaged in school.
“I want to introduce life skills courses,” said Woods, “these would be adaptive and restorative programs that would be a part of the curriculum.”
Woods wants students to take courses that will prepare them for the real world by teaching them how to create resumes and cover letters. The courses will also teach job interview skills and college preparedness skills. Woods believes that students should have lessons on how to navigate the Common Application program before applying to college.
Woods also addressed the increase in truancy rates amongst DCPS students between 2016 and 2017. DCPS truancy rates increased from 26 percent in 2016 to 31 percent in 2017. In response, Mayor Muriel Bowser initiated a city wide effort to increase school attendance by bringing together the entire community to support students and families through a public awareness campaign, and a taskforce coordinating public agencies and stakeholders, and investments in data-driven strategies to increase attendance.
Woods believes that low attendance rates in Washington D.C public schools can be attributed to a lack of student interest in school courses.
“I don’t think that the problem is attendance,” said Woods, “The current administration is saying that every day counts, I think it’s more of an issue of student engagement because students can attend class but really not pay attention. What we need to do is figure out how we can make students want to go to school.”
Woods also addressed gun violence in schools. He wants to incorporate “circle sessions” into elementary school curriculums in order to foster positive relationships between students and their peers, and students and their teachers. Woods believes that circle sessions, where students and teachers sit in a circle, will help teachers and therapists to recognize students with antisocial and dangerous behaviors at a young age.
Woods believes that school shootings like the one that occured in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018, can be prevented with circle sessions.
“What I want to do is implement circle sessions starting in preschool and kindergarten,” Woods said, “these are focused on socializing kids and developing kids so that they can feel like school is a safe environment. Circle sessions will foster better relationships between students and peers and students and teachers, and it could also help us figure out which students might need therapy or other emotional assistance.”
As mayor, Woods plans to introduce DCPS students to entrepreneurship through a series of Shark Tank competitions. Woods plans to teach middle school students about marketing and entrepreneurship through a citywide Shark Tank-like competition that will incorporate local business owners. After judging a citywide entrepreneurship competition, local business owners will have a chance to invest in products created by DCPS middle school students. Woods believes that underserved youth should be exposed to more opportunities to develop business acumen and entrepreneurship skills.
“The competition will definitely help to maintain student engagement,” Woods said.
Woods will also address the lack of grocery stores in Wards 7 and 8. Woods believes that access to healthy food will help DCPS students to perform better.
Residents living within Wards 7 and 8, which also have the city’s highest obesity rates and are home to the largest food deserts within D.C., have access to only seven full-service grocery stores. Woods plans to build grocery stores in Wards 7 and 8. Of the city’s 43 full-service grocery stores, only four are located in Ward 7, and three in Ward 8. By contrast, Ward 3 – the highest income Ward– has 11 full-service grocery stores.
Woods believes that the next mayor- whoever it may be- should focus on addressing the issues in Washington D.C.’s most impoverished communities.
“Washington D.C. is only as strong as its weakest ward.” Woods said.