Most high school students concerned with running for office may be eyeing class president or treasurer, but 18-year-old Dylan O'Byrne has a more ambitious pursuit: he wants a seat on his town's school board.
O'Byrne, a senior at Wood-Ridge High School in New Jersey, is one of a field of seven vying for two open seats in the April 16 election. He and his twin sisters were born and raised in Wood-Ridge, and as an Eagle Scout with a 3.6 grade point average and a love of history and social studies, O'Byrne thinks he has the credentials to sit on the board.
"I go to school here, I'm here every day," O'Byrne said.
O'Byrne said his school has slipped drastically in rankings and it's become discouraging for students and keeps away good teachers. He wants to boost academic performance, reduce teacher turnover and do away with school uniforms, a hot-button issue in the town of 7,600.
Still, he admitted he faces an uphill battle because of his age.
"Not everyone knows me," he said. "These adults are people who have been in the town their entire lives as well."
His sister, Stephanie O'Byrne, a sophomore at the high school, is confident in her brother's capability.
"He knows exactly what's going on in the school system and in the classrooms, and he's willing to say exactly what's going on in the classroom," she said.
O'Byrne has applied to colleges in New Jersey, so that if he wins, he can still serve.
Most of his peers aren't old enough to cast a ballot, but eligible voters had mixed opinions of O'Byrne's bid for a seat.
Khalid Rad, a parent of two school-aged children, said he would be willing to give the teen a chance.
"I think young people have fresh ideas. They're very smart these days," he said.
But Joann Ferro was skeptical.
"Age is important," she said. "You have to be mature in making decisions."
If O'Byrne wins the seat, he will become part of an elite group of school board members in New Jersey under the age of 25: there's only about 1 percent of them. And he's young enough to have greater political aspirations.
"Maybe councilman one day. Maybe mayor of Wood-Ridge," he mused.