ELIZABETH, NJ — He’s only 16, but Kason Little is going places.
The Elizabeth High School junior has become a familiar fixture at Elizabeth City Council meetings, Board of Education meetings, and at political debates and town halls throughout Elizabeth and beyond, and he is not shy about letting his feelings known to politicians in high places.
But a few months ago, Little decided to set up his own committee to ensure the
betterment of high schools throughout the city.
Little is the founder of the Students of Elizabeth Advisory Committee, a nonprofit group that meets after school hours. He said he has chosen one student from each high school in the city to act as a representative for their schools.
“A few months ago, I took the initiative in starting the Students of Elizabeth Advisory Committee,” Little told LocalSource in a March 4 email. “Since Elizabeth has various high schools, the committee consists of one student rep from each academy to ensure we all collaborate and decrease conflicts with education and to make sure we are all receiving the proper education we deserve.”
According to Little, the committee focuses on school environments, bullying, conflict resolution and student achievement. The committee meets with each high school school administrator to ensure that schools are moving in the right direction. The meetings are open to the public and take place the second and fourth week of each month at the Peterstown Community Center in Elizabeth.
“We come together to collaborate on issue like how to decrease conflicts, address concerns, increase the student body, to give students a voice,” Little said. “We need to make sure that every school at the high school level are going in the right direction. I want to ensure that all students and parents are heading the right direction.”
Little said that he became interested in politics during his freshman year in high school.
“What stirred the sense of activism in me is through the high school environment here in Elizabeth,” Little said. “I diligently observed policies that were both positive and negative, and the implications of those policies.”
According to Little, he likes to observe each angle of the city, specifically how it is educating its students.
“I felt that some changes were needed to fit specific students with specific needs,” Little said. “When I attend the Elizabeth Board of Education meetings diligently, I observe every individual who is a current BOE member serving our school district as BOE commissioners.”
Little has been critical of the board, and he has been outspoken at meetings of the BOE — something that, according to Little, has not won him any friends on the board.
“Many of those individuals seem to appear disinterested and don’t appreciate when I bring concerns and issues of conflicts that happens in schools to their attention. The last statement I shared with our school board members was, ‘If you seem to not take the concerns of students seriously — the ones who do have the biggest stake in this district — then may I ask, who will you listen to?’ I am not going anywhere until I am finished,” Little said.
Little said that being a younger person in traditionally adult settings has helped him develop his social skills.
“It helps me to develop adult social skills and will help me select a career,” he said, also noting that it will help with future college and career opportunities.
According to Little, he has a very specific vision for his hometown.
“With hard work, a strong desire, dedication for a change, and a shared commitment with many students and parents, I do have a vision for Elizabeth, Union County, New Jersey and United States of America,” Little said. “My vision of where I want to be or what I want to do for this city is one of the greatest assets I have. Without having a goal it’s difficult to score. The four steps to accomplish my vision is to plan purposefully, prepare prayerfully, proceed positively, and to pursue persistently.”
Little believes students need to speak up on their own behalf, saying, “I believe as students who are in high school, that we should take the opportunity to be a voice. If we students don’t speak up for what’s right, then we are part of what’s wrong.”
According to Little, his peers have been supportive — if not a little surprised — by his activism.
“They show some amusement but many have close relationships with me,” Little said. “I tend to receive a tremendous amount of support from my peers. My close friends come to me when they are in need of a hand, or a little motivation to keep their head held high at all times. I believe having close relationships with my peers can have a positive impact in many ways. When my peers report to me on what kind of day they’re having or what kind of experiences they are going through, they often leave me with a smile.”
Little said he plans to major in public education administration, and to return to Elizabeth to run for a place on the school board. In the meantime, he has his own homegrown heroes at home.
“The person I consider to be a hero in my life is my mother,” Little said. “I believe I received my ambition and my tough and positive attitude from her.
There are no words to describe how my mother wants my brother and I to succeed. On a daily basis, my mother maintains a wonderful smile, and that is a smile of being proud, and a smile stating to me that I will make it. My mother is my hero, my biggest supporter and No. 1 woman.”