Derrell Simpson: Charging Along the Path to Public Life
Credit: Peter Hoey
He has served on a District of Columbia commission, worked on school board campaigns, run a student government, tutored at an after-school program, launched a consulting firm, and, in his spare time, promoted volunteerism. Derrell Simpson has assembled an impressive résumé -- and he's just eighteen.
"He's such a talented young man," says Ruby G. Moy, former staff director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. A Simpson fan since they served together on the District of Columbia's Commission for National and Community Service, she describes him as "a model citizen."
For Simpson, the best elements of service and learning merge in public life. As the student-government president at Booker T. Washington Public Charter School for Technical Arts, in Washington, DC, Simpson savors the learning in leadership. He got his first taste of political campaigning in 2000, contributing to an Advisory Neighborhood Commission campaign. From there, he went on to work as a deputy manager for a DC Council member's successful reelection bid and to help manage three school board campaigns -- two of his candidates won.
Last July, Simpson completed a three-year tenure on the DC Commission on National and Community Service; the youngest member, he co-chaired its education subcommittee. "My biggest goal was to increase service learning here in DC," he says. "It needs to be introduced in the early curriculum."
Simpson also served as lead counselor at Trinidad Concerned Citizens for Reform, where he works in an after-school program; the paid job includes running sessions on life skills such as coping with peer pressure, conserving water, and avoiding firearms. In 2003 he started a consulting firm whose clients include the Miss DC Pageant. Unsurprisingly, he may study public relations in college; he's considering Edward Waters College, in Jacksonville, Florida.
All those extracurricular activities have sometimes conflicted with academics, admits Simpson. The senior was a solid B student this year who "has 'A' talent," says his school's principal, Richard Jackson, who credits him with revitalizing its student government. Jackson teams up with Simpson's mom, Catrice, and others to help the ambitious youth remain focused. "He has innate ability, understands people, has a great organizational mind, and is a respectful person," says Jackson, "qualities that make for a great leader."
Next Article: Daring Dozen 2007 > David Sobel