Manual High School senior Tay Anderson had a big day on Saturday.
He started off by leading fellow Manual High School JROTC students around Civic Center Park during the annual Veterans Day parade. That evening he was leading a rally on the state Capitol steps in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe who are fighting to resist an oil pipeline’s construction through their ancestral land.
To some these two activities might seem to be on opposite ends of the political spectrum. But Anderson sees both as an expression of leadership and civic responsibility, and his journey to becoming this highly engaged citizen began serendipitously with JROTC.
As a freshman, Anderson was placed in JROTC, or the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. “I didn’t want to be in the class.”
But, he said, he fell in love with the program. And as Anderson became more involved he discovered within himself a profound motivation to be a public servant.
In JROTC, he said, “we’re standing for something bigger than ourselves. We motivate young people to become better citizens.”
With this newfound sense of purpose Anderson began to work in new arenas. He became Manual High School’s student body president, became active with the leadership organization Project VOYCE and also began organizing far-reaching protests like a huge Black Lives Matter march in July.
He sees his involvement in both JROTC and social justice protests as a rounding out of his education. He says his broad civic engagement has brought on broader understanding.
“I see myself being able to see both perspectives,” he said, which makes him better able to act, “not just standing up because it’s the trend.”
And for Anderson, understanding the whole scope of his society is important for his long game. He said, without hesitation, that he intends to become the president of the United States.
First he plans to become a teacher, and perhaps a principal too. But he’s getting started working on his first election soon. Anderson says he plans to run for Denver Public Schools’ board of education, District 4, in 2017.
Indeed Anderson was one of a diverse group of young leaders directing battalions of their fellow high school students in marches around Civic Center Park.