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Nineteen year old elected to Egg Harbor Township School Board reflects on victory
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Nineteen year old elected to Egg Harbor Township School Board reflects on victory

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Nicholas Seppy, newly elected member of the Egg Harbor Township school board, is only 19 years old.

Nicholas Seppy was one of the millions of students over the last two years who have had to navigate school shutdowns, virtual learning and the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, the 19-year-old from Egg Harbor Township will be helping in the effort to rebuild from the pandemic as a member of his local school board

Seppy, a sophomore at Stockton University, was elected to the Egg Harbor Township Board of Education on Nov. 2. He is a 2020 graduate of Egg Harbor Township High School, where he served as the student liaison to the school board during his senior year.

Seppy said he sees his work as an elected official for the school district as a way to continue to give to his community after his high school graduation.

“Initially, I wanted to just step it up and give back to my community, as I’ve lived in Egg Harbor Township my entire life, and I wanted to sort of continue my service in an official position,” he said.

As someone who attended township schools from kindergarten through 12th grade, Seppy said he has the unique perspective of a recent graduate to offer.

“I’ve been a K-12 student of the district throughout my life, so I have that student perspective within me, and especially a recent student perspective,” Seppy said. “So a lot of it is in the decision-making process, there is going to be a great deal of empathy and understanding for the students, knowing that I’ve been through the same experiences as them.”

Seppy defeated Board Member Terre Alabarda for the seat, winning 4,042 votes to Alabarda’s 2,830, according to totals collected by The Press of Atlantic City. (School board elections in New Jersey are nonpartisan, meaning that candidates do not run on the ticket of a political party.)

Seppy will take office in January and will serve out the third and final year of the unexpired term of Ray Ellis Jr., who was elected to the school board in 2019, but left the seat vacant to serve on the Egg Harbor Township Committee.

Seppy first ran for the Egg Harbor Township school board in the 2020 elections, months after graduating. He finished outside of the top three vote spots and failed to win a seat.

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He attributed his initial loss, in part, to the COVID-19 pandemic and the limitations it placed on holding face-to-face campaign events. He also said that he felt there was an election learning curve he had to climb, and that he became a more proficient campaigner in 2021.

“This year, I reached as many as I possibly could, and I think I simply worked harder, I learned more from the campaign process, and I simply stepped my game up,” Seppy said. “It could be argued that this year was a bit more grueling, but I also had more experience this year as well.”

He said he was inspired to run for the board a second time by what he felt was a lack of opportunity for parents to voice their opinions during school board meetings in 2020.

“In the time in which I was attending meetings after my first election (campaign), I noticed that parents were not really being listened to, and they were being cut off in public comment at the board meetings,” Seppy said. “I wanted to give them a voice in the community again.”

Much of what parents were commenting on was related to the coronavirus pandemic, and the attendant changes to education that the pandemic brought about in the district. Seppy added, however that there was also “a multitude of issues” on which he believed parents were being silenced.

Seppy was also concerned about low resident attendance at school board meetings. He called turnout “abysmal,” and noted that when people do go to school board meetings, “they usually don’t leave them happy.”

He said he planned to promote parent involvement in the school district by fostering more of an open atmosphere at board meetings, and by working to personally gauge residents’ sentiments out in the community.

“Of course, I’ll be out in the community doing the normal things that go along with being an elected person, speaking to people around the town,” Seppy said.

Another of Seppy’s priorities is promoting vocational education. He maintained that trade schools are an important option for students, and that he would work to make students aware of all of their post-secondary-school opportunities.

Seppy said he has arranged his schedule so he will have time to balance his time between the school board and his classes at Stockton, where he is a political science major. He said he will make use of in-person classroom and virtual opportunities to do his Stockton school work. The particulars of his schedule have been plotted out “in advance,” and he pledged that he would never miss any school-board related work.

When asked about his advice for other young, political aspirants, Seppy said that they should make sure they are “as educated as possible.” He also encouraged young people who are considering running for office to focus more on government in their own local communities, and said he would work to promote civic lessons in school.

“You often find that young people in this country are so focused on federal politics, and listen, I get it, local politics and county politics for some people can be less than invigorating,” Seppy said. “If they’re involved (with local politics), not just with the big talking points of federal politics, and if they truly look at it and they get a feel for it, they’ll fit in just fine running now or in the future.”

Contact Chris Doyle

cdoyle@pressofac.com

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