19-Year-Old NJ School Board Member Credits Facebook Campaign

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A teenager is crediting new social media for his election to a school board in New Jersey. Brian Thompson reports. (Published Monday, May 10, 2010)

    Ace Antonio just turned 19 in February, but thanks to Facebook, he now counts himself as a member of the Paramus Board of Education, the body that sets policy for the high school he attended just last year.

    "Facebook was the most cost effective," he said of the method he used to reach out to the parents of his former classmates at Paramus High School. "It was already free."

    Antonio is now a freshman at William Paterson University, where he has declared as a political science major. He said he decided to run for the school board because of the cuts in state aid to education announced this winter.

    "What was going on with Governor Christie, I was like 'why are we getting impacted so greatly ... when our district is one of the best in New Jersey," Antonio said.

    So with some mostly Juniors and Sophomores he knew from last year, he launched his Facebook campaign to get students to ask their parents to vote for him.

    "Ace was like that kid, 'Oh, he's gonna be President,'" said Alexandra Garey, 17, a Junior at Paramus High in explaining how her fellow students approached their parents.

    It worked. Antonio, with his more than 1,000 Facebook friends, ended up getting 1815 votes in the school board election last month, enough to put him in office. He did need a teacher's help on his wardrobe for his door-to-door campaigning.

    "He just was a little wrinkly," said Spanish Teacher Michelle Limbacher, 38.

    But his primary campaign advisers for his virtual outreach were the students.

    "He really  got the word out to younger kids," said Gianna Riccoboni, 16, a sophomore and part of his kitchen cabinet.

    "In recent years, it's been not just social networks, but I think marketing strategies, in this case politically," said Lara Keskinkaya, 17, about the expanded use of sites like Facebook.

    Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY