Emilie Tedeschi: Taking Flight
by Kym Byrnes, photography by Nikola Tzenov
The County Board of Education’s Student Representative is Ready To Serve, and to Soar
Emilie Tedeschi is a powerhouse of a young woman. She is intelligent and self-aware, and brimming with ambition and a desire to seize every opportunity. There is a natural energy to her that makes whoever she is talking to want to live life as fully as she does. Emilie’s senior year probably looked a little different than your average high school senior’s — this past year she served as the student representative on the county Board of Education. The Century High School grad also served on her school’s student government association, was on the cheerleading team, took and taught dance classes at a local dance company and participated in at least 20 other clubs and organizations. She plans to attend either the Naval Academy or Air Force Academy in the fall and has plans to eventually be a pilot. Her list of commitments and accomplishments is impressive, but what makes her remarkable is her penchant for wanting to connect, to make an impact, to do good, to inspire hope.
There is a lot to get to, so can you start with sharing some of your background?
I have three siblings — an older brother who is enlisted in the Navy, a younger sister who passed away, and my youngest sister who is in middle school. I live with my parents, Steven and Kelly, in Sykesville and just graduated from Century High School. I work as a lifeguard over the summer, I volunteer a lot and teach at Savage Dance Company — that’s where I spent a lot of my time when I’m not in school. I’ve been a competitive dancer for about 10 years now and also do some recreational gymnastics. This year I also did varsity cheerleading because I wanted to participate in a school sport for my final year.
This year you served as the student representative on the Board of Education. How does one get that position?
Carroll County’s process is a little different than other counties — a student has to be a member of the Carroll County Student Government Association (CCSGA) and in order to be in CCSGA, a student has to participate in their school’s student government association (SGA). A student has to run for the position as a freshman or sophomore, and that involves an application, interviews, a primary vote from the CCSGA and then a final general election vote by all CCPS high schoolers. You then serve one year as a shadow to the sitting student representative, and the following year you serve as the student representative.
The student representative position is a serious commitment in terms of the time it takes both to get into the position but also once you are in the position — what motivated you so early on to want to do this?
I have been involved in student government since sixth grade when I was my homeroom representative. I had great advisors throughout middle school, and my sixth-grade homeroom teacher was really supportive and enthusiastic in encouraging students to get involved. Since then, I’ve always had a passion for it, and look for every opportunity to be involved. My freshman year I focused on a class officer position. I ran for class president, but at our school you’re not allowed to be a class officer and in SGA at the same time. I lost that election for class president, and I think that really made me realize that I really didn’t want to work on proms and programs for our class — I really wanted to work on policy and issues for the school system. When I was younger, I saw a change made in the dress code with feedback from students, and that stuck with me. I was a quiet student early on and always told myself “there’s another personality that would fit that position better,” but I’m glad I pushed myself to develop public speaking skills and to build connections with others.
You served on the Board of Education at a time where it was getting a lot of attention and discussing some pretty controversial issues. What stands out to you from your time serving as the student representative?
My first board meeting was June 8, 2022 — the meeting that the [pride] flag policy was being voted on. It was a little overwhelming. I had talked through it with the previous student rep and I found a lot of peace and was able to center myself by talking to the students, and that’s where I’ve found my joy in this position.
I found there was a commonality within the student base, and my job was to take that collective student opinion and put it together with my experience and knowledge and history, and figure out how to capture that student opinion in our upcoming goals. My job is not to please any particular audience; it’s to represent the students. Students are an interesting group to work with because we are developing our own concepts and ideas of the world — we’re picking up some of what others are saying but developing our own ideas at the same time. It’s a really great dynamic with students because they are being really flexible with each other and understand one change in the school environment will impact everyone, and they ask “What do we do to achieve what is best for all of us?”
How do you think this position has helped you grow or evolve — what have you learned about yourself in this process?
I think my flexibility and adaptability has grown. I used to be type A — surprises were my worst enemy – and that has completely changed. While I do like to plan ahead and be prepared, I always have the “but if this part of the policy changes that will swing my vote that way” or “if this changes I’ll go this way.” I always have the “but ifs” prepared and have learned how to think on the spot. I was great at problem solving when sitting down and focused in a quiet room but now I’ve learned to adjust based on what I’m working on in the moment, while new information is coming in, while conversations are happening.
What do the next five years look like for you?
I will attend either the Air Force Academy or the Naval Academy. I’ll serve four years at a service academy and after that I will commission into whatever job I select, probably flight school, then years of service as a pilot.
Your brother is in the Navy and you are going military — are you following in family footsteps?
No, we’re not a “military family.” My mom is a NICU [neonatal intensive care unit] nurse and my dad was in the biomedical engineering field and now he’s in IT. I have the logical thinking side from my dad and the on-the-spot problem solving and service side from my mom. I was originally oriented towards biomedical engineering, but over time I realized research is not really the avenue I want to take. I didn’t see it as being as fulfilling as the military. I had been thinking of service academies ever since I was little and I’ve had serious conversations about the commitment with my family as well as others that have provided great guidance and insight.
I think my curiosity drives me to try new things. I’m not necessarily spontaneous, but I always want to try something new. I see everything as an opportunity. Maybe it’s because my sister passed away at an early age [she passed in infancy from health-related complications] that I don’t want to pass up anything. I want to constantly learn something and meet new people and take everything I’m offered — I don’t want to take any of it for granted. I know I’m blessed to have these opportunities. I’ve learned to adapt to failure, and I just want to learn along the way and not be afraid of failure.
What stresses you out?
I missed a lot of school time with this position, and I’m very much an “I need to be in class and work through it” learner, so sometimes I simply didn’t have time to go to class and then make up work at night, and that piled up. Missing a couple days of school in a row [for Board of Education related meetings and commitments] wears on me. If I would have been in this position two years ago, I would have really struggled, but I think I’ve grown into it. There’s always a time where things slow down and I can catch up, and teachers are flexible and you figure out a way to make it work.
If you had to do high school over again, what would you do differently?
I like to say I don’t regret anything from high school. I think if I had to change something, I would have gotten involved sooner. I didn’t realize how many ways there were to get involved. I didn’t realize students could give testimony in general assembly, or a student council, didn’t realize how far-reaching the opportunities are. I thought it all just ended within Carroll County. I don’t know how I would have changed that, I think that was part of the learning process. If I was speaking to someone younger I would say “Just get involved, there will be different avenues that branch out from there and you’ll find your niche.”
What makes you happy?
I love providing a sense of hope to people. A lot of times students come to me with issues or problems that they feel completely unheard on. For them to trust me enough to share that they are vulnerable and frustrated, and know I’m going to work to do something for them — I’m honored and proud to have the level of trust with the students. I do hope that I make them proud. I am someone that likes to be a problem solver, and who doesn’t try to increase tension but instead tries to find the middle ground and make people as happy as possible. I think a lot of times when people see you problem-solve, they’re inspired to help be a part of that process and they realize their value because they say “Oh, I can be a part of that change — what can I do to step up?”
You deserve an easy question — what is your favorite food?
Ha, this might be the most challenging question to answer! I am an adventurous eater. I like seafood a lot. I love cooking. I like going to the farmers’ market and picking some stuff up and I love making family recipes — my family bonds a lot around cooking and eating.