I’m With Tay

I was asked recently what it is about Tay Anderson that makes me such a fierce supporter. I felt like I had to censor my response because not everyone knows Tay’s whole story. I asked him for permission to begin sharing his entire story with people so they can understand him as a person and how his narrative drives him as a candidate.

Anderson speaking at ‘Colorado Stands With Immigrants”

Many people have read the headlines, “Tay Anderson 18-year-old homeless youth runs for school board….” I imagine others have been curious to know how and why this young man was faced with such an enormous obstacle. It took awhile to gain his trust as a friend first, and then as his campaign manager for him to feel comfortable enough to tell me. This is what I learned.
 
Tay lived the shared narrative of many young black men. He never met his father and his very strained relationship with his mother impacted him deeply as he bounced from one foster home to the next. Any child would suffer under these circumstances. He started high school feeling that nothing mattered. He had no faith in himself or his own abilities. As a result, his grades suffered. He got into trouble. He was on the path that so many others have been forced into taking as a result of circumstances they have no control over.

“It woke me up. I didn’t want to ruin my life. I knew I could and needed to do better. I was embarrassed. So I decided to change. I decided not to give up.”

The school informed Tay that he would not graduate on time and he was put on a five-year plan. This is where I expected him to tell me the worst. Instead, he said this, “It woke me up. I didn’t want to ruin my life. I knew I could and needed to do better. I was embarrassed. So I decided to change. I decided not to give up.” He made the decision to remove himself from the negative environment he was in and enrolled in Manual High School to finish his career in public education. It was in that moment that I realized that he had accomplished even more than any news story had reported. He had changed his narrative.

Tay and the Team attend Denvers Pride Parade

That decision and all of the work he put in for the remainder of his high school career took him from failing freshman to student body president, Chair of the Colorado High School Democrats, State Central Committeeman for HD9, and High School graduate. That to me is the biggest testament as to what he is capable of. He didn’t allow his unstable home life to dictate his ability even when faced with the ultimate challenge as a homeless youth attending classes and completing assignments, staying the course no matter what. 
 
He is now grateful for his experience and this difficult journey because it is what inspired him to want to change the Denver Public School system. He wants every child to have the chance to determine their own narrative, just like he did.

“Listen, you’re going to fall. You might even fall hard. Just don’t stay down. You have to get back up. You have to do better. I promise you will not be the only one with regrets.”

My family and I have spent a lot of time with Tay and I’ve come to realize that his past is a part of him just like the rest of us, but it is what he does with his future that matters the most. My own son will start high school this fall. I have expressed my concerns about the challenges he will face as he has already struggled so much. One day Tay, my son, and I were in my car and the topic drifted to school issues as it always does. We received the typical response of eyes rolling at us when Tay finally said, “Listen, you’re going to fall. You might even fall hard. Just don’t stay down. You have to get back up. You have to do better. I promise you will not be the only one with regrets.”

I’m with Tay because he’s not afraid to own up to his own mistakes and continue moving forward. His devotion to confronting the issues he has wrestled with has led him to testify for laws that affect him and his peers. I have never seen Tay step down on an issue he believes in. 
 
Tay is a leader who has lived the struggles that so many of us face but fail to overcome. He has worked through adversity and continues to face the community’s issues face on.
 
I’m with Tay because he’s honest and transparent. 
 
Tay is a person, just like you and just like me. He has had his setbacks and is stronger for them. His struggle should not be a weapon used against him to tarnish his reputation but rather it should be a reminder of his dedication, hard work, and perseverance. He knows what it takes to start from the bottom and work to the top. Tay is a reminder that we can all overcome. 
 
I’m with Tay in the 2017 election for the Denver Public School’s Board of Education! Visit tayanderson.org to read our platform, follow the campaign and make a donation.

Written by Tiffany Marie Caudill — Campaign Manager

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