An inside look at the SMOB Election


Students nominated Richard Montgomery juniors Ananya Tadikonda (right) and Nimah Nayel (left) as the two Student Member of the Board finalists Feb. 21. Students will vote for the winner April 25. Photos courtesy Nimah Nayel and Ananya Tadikonda.

By Thomas Mande and Eric Neugeboren

When students vote for the next MCPS Student Member of the Board April 25, they will select from two longtime classmates. MCPS students chose Richard Montgomery juniors Nimah Nayel and Ananya Tadikonda in a nomination convention Feb. 21. The upcoming election is the first with two female finalists in 15 years.

Nimah Nayel

Nayel has served as her grade’s class president for the past three years and as the vice president of the RM Muslim Student Association. She believes this leadership experience will benefit her SMOB candidacy.

“Communication has been very necessary in the positions that I’ve held as well as the skill to communicate with different types of people,” Nayel said. “At my school I’ve been really fortunate to have such a diverse community and it has prepared me to deal with all types of people.”

Nayel’s platform focuses on reforming county mental health policy. She hopes to implement mandatory training sessions for all teachers on addressing mental health issues.

“Teachers have the most interaction with students, so I think it’s important for their training to be extensive,” Nayel said.

As for the contentious issue of school safety, Nayel strongly opposes any guns in the classroom. Instead, she favors installing panic buttons in bathrooms linking to authorities during an emergency.

Nayel also thinks her ideas are more realistic than Tanikanda’s and her easy-going personality sets her apart.

“It’s important to remember that in SMOB, the ‘S’ stands for student,” she said. “Not everyone is comfortable with policies. So, as SMOB, I’m going to speak to student’s perspective. I don’t need to use big words to make myself sound smart. All it’s really about is representing what we as students want.”

Ananya Tadikonda

Tadikonda has served in the countywide SGA for six years, currently as vice president and previously as president of the middle school county SGA. Through these roles, she has gained valuable experience in county government and has also realized what changes need to be made, she said.

“[My role in countywide SGA] enabled me to gain a lot of experience with educational policy and the way decisions are made in our school system,” Tadikonda said. “Seeing all that and seeing the discrepancies in the way students are represented right now I decided that my perspective and experience put together would revolutionize and change the role of the SMOB for generations to come.”

Tadikonda feels that all backgrounds aren’t equally represented in student

government and fixing that is one of her primary goals. She hopes to make herself accessible to all students by increasing school visits and creating more opportunities for interaction in settings where the SMOB isn’t traditionally present.

“I want to make the SMOB less of a figurehead and more of a student who’s involved in activities across the county,” Tadikonda said. “That includes doing things like ensuring that I am present at more social events around the county and supporting athletes, art students and students of other groups around the county.”

If elected, Tadikonda plans to work on a number of issues, including funding some AP and IB exams, increasing technology use in classrooms, educating students on career pathways besides colleges and increasing the county’s focus on mental health.

What sets Tadikonda apart from her competitor is her experience and record of action, she said. Tadikonda has testified multiple times to the County Council, Board of Education and state legislature, and knows many of the board members by name, she said. She also recently submitted a report on mental health to the board of education with student data from 23 of Montgomery County’s 25 high schools.

“That experience is very necessary for the SMOB because you need to listen to hours and hours of testimony yourself if you’re sitting on that Board of Education,” Tadikonda said. “And I think that experience really sets me apart from my opponent because I’ve been involved for a long time and I also bring that deep perspective.”