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Howard University student youngest elected official in D.C.

By Daniel White, Howard University News Service | Last updated: Nov 5, 2014 - 5:51:10 PM

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Howard University student Allyson Carpenter Photo: LinkedIn/Allyson Carpenter
WASHINGTON (NNPA) - In the sixth grade, Allyson Carpenter, then-10 and the youngest student in her middle school, rallied her classmates to sign a petition to get their teacher fired for what young Carpenter deemed mistreatment of students.

By the time the principal called Ms. Carpenter’s mother in to discuss her daughter’s activity, young Allyson had collected 800 signatures from the entire middle school’s student body, not just the 300 sixth graders in her class.

“I’ve always assumed the role of advocate,” recalled Allyson, now a second-year student at Howard University. “When I realized that my classmates were suffering at the hands of an incompetent teacher, I began circulating a petition calling for the teacher to be removed.”

With that same fearlessness and passion, Allyson this summer won election as the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for the community surrounding Howard University, and thus, at 18, became the youngest person ever to be elected to a position in the District of Columbia.

Her mother, Alaina Carpenter, said she is really not that surprised.

“She was always fighting for the cause when people couldn’t stick up for themselves,” she said.

Allyson, a Cleveland native, is many things—deputy chief of staff to Howard’s student body president, former intern to Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown in his Cleveland and Washington offices and currently an intern with Washington’s Office of the City Administrator

Yet, none of these roles, Allyson said, defines her. She is of her own making, constantly molding herself into different forms, all with a single core—she wants to help others.

Allyson represents Ward 1B10, which stretches from Hobart Place, N.W. to Bryant Street, N.W., on the north and south and from 6th St., N.W. to 1st St., N.W. on the east and west. It includes most of Howard University’s main campus.

Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANC) are elected positions created in 1974 to represent residents’ concerns and wishes on a more local level. ANCs consider a wide range of policies and programs affecting their neighborhoods, including traffic, parking, recreation, street improvements, liquor licenses, zoning, economic development, police protection, sanitation and trash collection. They communicate those concerns to City Council members and other city officials.

Commissioners such as Allyson serve two-year terms and receive no salary, but do receive grant money for the general purpose of improving their area and hiring staff.

“If you think about the ANC, it’s different from any other elected office in the District, because it really is completely a service position,” said Allyson, who is one of more than 200 ANC commissioners.

“We don’t get paid. We don’t get to make laws. Our power is very limited. My job duties completely require me to work with my constituents. They vote for me so I can work for them.”

Allyson said she wants to bridge the gap between the needs and concerns of students at Howard and the surrounding community.