HERMITAGE — Alongside his plans for college and career after high school, Hickory High School student Andrew J. Bucci also wants on serving his community on the Hermitage School Board.
Set to graduate this spring, the 17-year-old senior said he can bring a unique perspective to the district’s school board as both a recent student and as someone who maintains a close relationship with many of his teachers.
Tuesday marked the first day candidates could begin circulating petitions for the May primary. Bucci said he plans to crossfile for one of four nominations in both the Republican and Democratic parties.
Having political candidates who are barely old enough to vote is not entirely new in Mercer County. In 2001, Mercer borough elected then-19-year-old recent high school graduate Chris Portman as mayor.
Two years ago, Gage Bartholomew won election to Lakeview School Board, a position he still holds.
Bucci is seeking an opportunity to juggle public office with his college aspirations — he plans to attend Geneva College in Beaver Falls.
If elected, Bucci said he wants to maintain accessibility with students, parents and teachers, who can bring him their concerns and then subsequently have those matters brought to the board’s attention.
Technology can help maintain that accessibility. Bucci said the COVID-19 pandemic forced him to take elements of his campaign to social media, particularly Facebook and Instagram, he said such platforms could both help him keep the public abreast of the school board’s actions and improve transparency, while providing a way for people to send him their thoughts and concerns.
While this marks Bucci’s first venture into general election, he’s familiar to elections and service, as president of Hermitage’s Class of 2021 for two years, president of Future Business Leaders of America and Youth Alive at Hickory High School, as well as vice president of the Model UN, club recruiter for Key Club, secretary of the Green Team, and a competitor in Academic Games.
Bucci also had some experience interning with U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly’s Sharon office, the state Republican Party, and the Republican National Convention. Those experiences gave him the opportunity to encounter not just politics but interacting with people in the community, which he came to deeply enjoy.
“I really liked being able to get out there and talk with people and hear their concerns,” Bucci said.
Even though most of his extracurricular political experience has been on the Republican side of the aisle, Bucci said he tries to see all sides of every issue and understand everyone’s viewpoint, regardless of their political affiliation. His reading selections reflect that — in his downtime, he reads non-fiction books about historical figures including Billy Graham and Barack Obama, whose recent book, “A Promised Land,” was on Bucci’s reading list.
If elected to the school board, Bucci said he would like to pursue is retaining some elements of traditional schoolwork. Bucci said he’s not against incorporating technology, such as Chromebooks, into the classroom, but said some students prefer a traditional format.
“There’s kids out there who learn better with paper and pencil — I learn better that way,” Bucci said.
Making sure teachers are appreciated is something else Bucci said would be a priority for him as a board member, due to difficulties they encounter in normal years along with additional stress over the last 12 months from the COVID-19 pandemic.
After graduation, Bucci said he plans to study theology and student ministries, with a minor in political science, at Geneva College.
After college, Bucci hopes to stay local in Hermitage and remain connected with Grace Chapel Community Church, where he’s already worked with some of the church’s younger members through programs such as youth services.
“It’s been very rewarding getting to work with the kids,” he said.
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