Laker elected to board of education

Toby Hutchins is one of the youngest elected officials in Mich.

By Audra Gamble | 11/20/14 1:10am

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GVL/Kevin Sielaff Tobias Hutchins


While most college students feel overwhelmed by their workloads, one Grand Valley State University student has taken on a rather daunting task.

Toby Hutchins, a GVSU senior double majoring in political science and public and nonprofit administration, recently won an election for a six-year term on his hometown school board.

Hutchins, 21, will graduate in the spring after having served as a member of the Fennville Public Schools board of education for four months.

However, Hutchins feels ready for the task ahead.

“I’ve been lucky to where the stars aligned so I don’t have class on Fridays or on Mondays and Wednesdays until the evening,” Hutchins said. “It’s really convenient. I’ll be able to be in the district and also be back up at GV. I think I’ll be all right. I feel pretty comfortable about it. “

Hutchins is now one of the youngest elected officials in Michigan.

Mark Richards, political science department chair, said that Hutchins’ youth was an advantage during the election.

“(Hutchins’) age was an advantage because he understands how the youth view education and he was able to convey that to the voters,” Richards said.

Hutchins looks forward to serving on the school board of his hometown, which is 10 minutes south of Holland.

“I’m really passionate about Fennville Public Schools,” Hutchins said. “I substitute teach there right now and I’ve grown up there my whole life. It’s just a way for me to give back and it fulfills my passion.”

Richards is confident that the political science education Hutchins received at GVSU has prepared him well for the position.

“Toby has developed his speaking and discussion skills through his classes,” Richards said. “Effective leaders need to be able to not only articulate their own view but also engage voters in dialogue. He also has a strong understanding of policy issues and how political institutions operate.”

Hutchins said that he has to thank GVSU for more than just his political science degree.

“GV has made me appreciate diversity,” Hutchins said. “In Fennville, 42 percent of our students are minorities, so I’ve grown up around that. It’s something I really appreciate, and I know Grand Valley has been striving to get others to appreciate that too.”

Though Hutchins is quite young, he said that he has received a warm welcome from the rest of the board of education.

“I’ve already met with one of the board members, and a couple of them are my friends’ parents,” Hutchins said. “I’m a familiar face; they’ve all been really supportive of me. A lot of people have been really supportive of me, because I am fresh blood. People are tired of old politicians that think they run the place. People are glad to see that I’m starting early and that my generation is stepping up.”

Hutchins has only been out of high school for a few years, so he feels that he can connect well to the needs of the students in his district.

“One thing that Fennville needs to work on is creating a college-going atmosphere,” Hutchins said. “I call it the Fennville problem. People from Fennville think they can’t amount to anything because they’re from Fennville, which isn’t true. I can bring that student perspective, seeing that and hearing that my entire life.”

Though Hutchins was just recently elected, he has already sent out a survey to all the teachers in the district and is eagerly waiting for the feedback.

Hutchins encourages all students at GVSU to become more engaged in their communities.

“Our generation has to step up,” he said. “We’re going to be inheriting a lot of good things and a lot of bad things. Now is the time to get involved. Nobody is going to make excuses for us when we inherit all of these things.”

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