“Juan the One”, Won!

Story by Kaitlyn Meehan, Editor in Chief

When Juan Torres Munoz put his name in the running to become the next Student Advisor for the Charlotte Mecklenburg School Board, it was hard to picture him sitting to the right of Superintendent Earnest Winston at his very first school board meeting. However, after a long and eventful campaign, Torres is now the first Latin-American Student Advisor for CMS as well the student body ICC Chair at East Meck. 

Torres is a hard-working student in the International Baccalaureate Program at East Meck who has always put effort into his community and school’s well being. When he heard of the opportunity to be the Student Adviser, he knew it was for him. After receiving emails and seeing it on Instagram, Torres announced his official campaign in November 2021, and many of East’s students lined up to support him. 

Student Congress began with a brainstorming session to get the most students involved as possible, along with other schools that did not have their own students running. What resulted was a catchy slogan and backpacks cluttered with buttons on Torres’s face. “Juan is the One” took off on social media. Memes and promotional videos drove Torres’s campaigns he used them as a primary format to reach out to students and voice his opinions. 

“We here in this side of the city don’t get as much representation as other representatives have given them.” said Torres, excited to be the student finally responsible for representing East, a school with over 2,200 students and very little portrayal in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS). 

One of the main concerns Torres has regarding CMS is how to handle gun violence effectively as a serious matter. A big controversy among students right now is the clear backpacks set to be distributed in February, meant to make the contents of student’s backpacks more visible. Many students believe it’s intrusive and disrupts their privacy. While Torres fights the reality of the situation, and the true danger that gun violence poses to East, he also strives to find better alternatives, ones that would succeed in making students feel safer on campus.

He works to create a positive and proactive environment with students and his main objective of his candidacy is to “give students the voice that they need.” 

One of the most helpful parts of reaching this goal is that Torres really is your everyday student. An average Juan. With over 140,000 students in CMS, and less than 30 attendants at most board meetings, this is essential to the success of the school board. 

One of Torres’s first acts as School Board Advisor was creating the first social media account dedicated to the position in the six years that it has been present in CMS. On this Instagram account “@cmsstudentadv”, he works to stay in contact with students. In his bio he writes, “I’ll share your concerns with BoE, feel free to DM me”. 

Torres attended his first board meeting on Jan. 11 and discussed hot topic issues such as critical race theory, masks and the misinformation regarding both. Although he wasn’t able to say much, he still managed to make city-wide headlines as Torres states that students would make more progress in bettering the CMS education system if parents were to “step aside” and let students take the lead on heavy topics like COVID-19. With this statement Torres conveys that what it is necessary for parents to be involved in their children’s education, it is crucial to give the students who are experiencing the strife first hand a place to speak on the issues that matter most to them. All this to say that while parents should stay involved in the CMS board of education, their kids opinions matter as well.

What Torres really wants students to take away from his appointment to the board is the importance of staying engaged in the CMS community, he acknowledges that there are flaws in the school system, but he also knows that nothing will change if students don’t take incentive to voice their opinions. As the first Hispanic student representative on the board he prides himself on being able to speak to families in both English and Spanish. Torres has the unique ability to represent the some 30 percent of students in CMS with Hispanic heritage. One of his primary goals working towards the betterment of East Meck is increasing safety measures and finding practical ways for students to feel secure at school while still maintaining their privacy. 

Walking down the halls, Torres gives Eagles hope that the same person sitting in their math class is the same person working hard to amplify student’s voices on a federal level, and he encourages others to do the same. 

“Don’t just react but be proactive,” Torres said.