Jordan Camarre wanted to be a doctor until he got into the eighth grade.
The grim realities of budget cuts steered Jordan toward political aspirations.
He said that school year -- last year -- was marked by the lows of layoffs and fewer student activities, but also the high of an effort that reversed the denial of the principal's tenure.
Jordan and other students went to a School Board meeting last year in support of their principal.
"We got to stand up and tell the board how we felt," said Jordan, now 15 and a ninth-grader at Newfane High School. "And in the end, he was granted his tenure."
His initial and successful participation in the democratic process infused him with the confidence to tackle other issues brought on by state and school budget cuts. Last spring, he detailed his concerns in letters he sent to State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane; then-Gov. David A. Paterson; and President Obama. He didn't get a response from the president. But in a week's time, Paterson sent him an encouraging reply, and over the summer, he met with Maziarz.
Jordan is continuing this school year to lay the foundation of his future political career. He'll meet with the district's superintendent soon to explore ways to close the budget gap.
>Why did you join other students in standing up for the principal?
The state budget cut really hit our school hard, the teachers were getting cut, sports were getting cut, all the things a student should have to make their school year better were cut. And then the principal was denied his tenure, and it just wasn't right. He's a great principal and deserved his tenure. We all went to the board meeting.
>How did you feel when the board approved the principal's tenure?
That made me feel really great because when I first started a lot of people were saying that I couldn't do it; it was too big of an issue. I was overwhelmed and proud that we could make a change.
>Why did you write the letters to the politicians? What were you trying to accomplish?
After the principal got his tenure, I noticed how bad our state was. I noticed how bad New Yorkers were suffering. To me, it was really unfair. I wanted to help, so I wrote the letters about the problems.
>And what did the politicians have to say about your concerns?
I was overwhelmed that the governor wrote back so quickly, but he really didn't answer any of my questions. I called Mr. Maziarz, and we talked about his views, and he contacted me back. And we talked about Medicaid, welfare and the gulf oil spill. He said he wanted to meet July 31, and I went to his district office in Wheatfield.
>So what what was it like meeting with the state senator?
It was great; I'll never forget it. We sat down and talked about a lot of stuff -- what he did in college, what courses he took, and why he wanted to be a state senator.
>What do see as the major issue or problem in schools?
There are some big problems, but a lot of money is being wasted. We have TVs in every single classroom, and they are not being used. They used to use them for announcements, but now they just use the intercom system. I feel that we are going to suffer in our high school years, and state budget cuts are taking away from the best years of our lives, and it's really unfair to us. And the district's talking about closing two more schools, but that's going to affect 32 teachers, the students who go to those schools and the community as a whole.
>What's your main gripe with state government?
Welfare is one of my main topics. Anybody from anywhere can come to New York State and apply. All they need is a Social Security number and ID. And it's killing us. It's burdening us. There's no law in place to stop people who misuse the system, to stop them from taking money from the working taxpayers of Western New York. And that's the main reason the state is in debt. We have the highest Medicaid enrollment in the whole nation, and it sickens me. Welfare is good for people who really need it, but the people who misuse it are stealing. And it makes me mad, and I'm fed up.
>How would you describe your political leanings? Are you more conservative or liberal?
I'm leaning more toward Republican. My mom got mad at me because she's a Democrat, but Democrats, they want to help everybody. And you can't help everybody in the world because sooner or later, the well is going to run dry.
>Who is your political role model? Which politician do you admire?
I really admire Mr. Maziarz because he really didn't have to meet with me. If it weren't for that meeting, I don't think I would have gotten this far. He really inspired me. For somebody to take time out of their busy schedule to talk to a teenager shows me he really cares for the district and the people he works for.
>So what kind of political career would you like to have?
First I want to go to college and take courses in political speaking and political science. I want to be U.S. senator, and, hopefully, I want to run for the office of the president. When I tell people, they laugh because they think it's a far-fetched dream. But I know with a lot of hard work and dedication, anything is possible.
Know a Niagara County resident who'd make an interesting question-and-answer column? Write to: Scott Scanlon, Q&A, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240, or e-mail email@example.com