Why a Florida Teen Is Running for His Local School Board: 'Trying to Give a Voice to the Voiceless'

·4 min read
Raymond Adderly
Raymond Adderly

Courtesy Raymond Adderly Raymond Adderly

At 17 years old, Raymond Adderly's life is largely similar to that of other overachieving teenagers — emphasis on the over in achieving.

In addition to serving as a commanding officer of NJROTC at Fort Lauderdale High School, Raymond plays the trumpet, sings and acts in local plays. When he isn't in class. And while he's running for a seat on the Broward County School Board.

In an interview with PEOPLE, Raymond spoke just like the seasoned politician he now technically is.

"When I was a kid, I always said I wanted to be a lawyer or the president of the United States," he says. "I always knew that I wanted to help people."

But there's a very personal story behind the platitudes.

While he's running, he says, "for the child who sits in back of classroom and has no one to speak to," his campaign is also for the parent "that's petrified to send their child to school, not knowing if they'll come back home."

His school board bid is no stunt, he insists. And that childhood call to help others only grew stronger when his family was victimized in a home invasion in 2010.

Raymond Adderly
Raymond Adderly

Raymond Adderly

Raymond, who was 6 years old at the time, was home when his dad returned from a Christmas party around 9 p.m. According to local news reports from the time, his dad, Raymond Adderly Jr., was ambushed getting out of his car and forced inside the house before being shot and killed.

"It was really rough," Raymond says now. "For many, that would have been paralyzing. But for me, I just want to make my father proud."

Raymond Adderly
Raymond Adderly

Courtesy Raymond Adderly Raymond Adderly and his dad

Politics isn't exactly new for the teen, who said the his dad's death led him "on a pursuit for justice."

Raymond served as class president in 2019 and 2020 and is currently the student representative to the school board, which means he gets to speak publicly (but cannot vote) on issues affecting him and his classmates, such as the importance of wearing masks during the pandemic.

"I can speak until I'm blue in the face, but it doesn't mean they will listen or vote in the way that benefits students," Raymond says, adding: "Any good school board's first job is to serve students. But until they get a student perspective … we will continue to move in circles."

RELATED: Tennessee Teen Mocked at School Board Meeting for Saying His Grandmother Died of COVID-19

Among the issues on his campaign platform, Raymond says, are advocating for better infrastructure, technology and programs in schools and ensuring all students, regardless of grades or background, have equal access to a good education.

He's also passionate about other issues, such as keeping kids safe from school shootings and addressing mental health issues.

"Living in South Florida, it's hard not to think about Marjorie Stoneman Douglas every time we have an active shooter drill," Raymond says. "And a focus on mental health is needed in schools, too. Kids are juggling extracurriculars, trying to be the best athletes … it's a lot of pressure."

Raymond Adderly
Raymond Adderly

Courtesy Raymond Adderly Raymond Adderly

If elected, Raymond would take his seat in 2022 — the same year he will be headed off to college. He says he's looking at schools in South Florida so he could do both, but adds that he's already received an acceptance to Wheaton College, in Illinois.

He would also take office during a time of deep political division, with school board members often in the cross-hairs of issues such as the teaching of critical race theory and COVID-19 safety measures. Earlier this week, the FBI announced it would investigate a spike in harassment and threats of violence against teachers and school board members around the country.

Asked if he's nervous about the possibility of serving on a school board, Raymond is unequivocal: "No, absolutely not. Good leaders rise to the challenge."

Raymond Adderly
Raymond Adderly

Courtesy Raymond Adderly Raymond Adderly

And even though he's campaigning for a traditionally adult role on the school board, Raymond swears he's still a regular teenager ("I'm watching Squid Game," he says of the Netflix sensation.)

He attributes his ability to juggle school, extracurriculars and the campaign to "stringent time management" — that, and a group of friends who are eager to help out.

"I have staff that allow me to use their homes for multiple things," Raymond says. "My friend Rocco moved on and went to college but his house used to be our campaign headquarters."

Now, Raymond says, he keeps a "big box of bumper stickers" at another friend's house and a stack of campaign literature remains handy in his own book bag at all times.

Raymond Adderly
Raymond Adderly

Courtesy Raymond Adderly Raymond Adderly

"I'm no billionaire. I'm just a simple guy, a simple student from humble beginnings. I'm trying to give a voice to the voiceless," Raymond says, echoing the same sort of political rhetoric often heard by those musing about even higher office — like, say, president of the United States, his childhood dream.

"Right now, my focus is on the school board race," he says. "The president part we will have to reassess when the time comes."