Rashad Staton heard about the U.S. Congressional Page Program on the morning announcements at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Baltimore City.
“I ran down to the guidance counselor's office and I applied. I received a nomination to be one of the U.S. Congressional pages for the U.S. House of Representatives to represent the state of Maryland. That was at [age] 16 and it changed my life. I no longer wanted to be an athlete,” he explained.
The page program exposes young people to the legislative process as they serve as messengers and prepare the congressional chambers for session.
The summer Rashad spent working on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. exposed him to new opportunities and experiences. “I knew that politics and advocacy work could change the trajectory of my life, my community, and my family,” Staton said. “I went from dribbling a basketball to using my brain and analytical skills to change my space and my environment,” he added.
Staton’s experience as a page introduced him to the impact one can make as a public servant. He decided to major in political science and attended Morgan State University--a stepping stone to his dreams. While in college, Staton held executive positions in the Student Government Association and National Pan-Hellenic Council. Leading large student groups gave him practical experience in community organizing while learning political theory in class.
Staton also served as vice chair for the Baltimore City Youth Commission, which at the time was a mix of young people ages 13-24 representing city council districts. “We had to be very keen and receptive to perspectives on our own team,” he said, “I had to still be able to understand the needs and the wants of a middle schooler.”
Staton said one highlight of his time as a commissioner was when he led and organized family dinners with resource fairs for residents of Perkins Homes, an East Baltimore public housing community, called BeMore Dinners, with the support of his friends and fellow commissioners.
Staton began collaborating with the Center for Adolescent Health as a youth commissioner. The Youth Commission partners with CAH’s Youth Leadership and Advocacy Network (YLAN) to connect youth leaders across the city and ensure youth are represented in policy decisions that directly impact their well-being and healthy transition to adulthood.
“It allows young people to learn early to not fall victim to working in silos, but to work collaboratively. It's a shared space of young people learning what other young people are doing,” Staton said.
Programs and initiatives created with youth are more effective than ones simply made for youth.
He’s continued to chair YLAN along with Katrina Brooks, CAH’s community relations director. “Rashad is remarkable. His personality and his work ethic helps people be comfortable around him,” Brooks said.
Staton formerly worked as a program assistant for Family League of Baltimore and recently started a new job--youth engagement specialist for Baltimore City Public Schools. In this position, his work focuses on promoting the district’s Blueprint Initiative, which is centered on literacy, student wholeness, and leadership.
He works on multiple projects at the City Schools Family and Community Engagement Office and plans programming focused on empowering youth to raise their voice and make positive change. In February, Staton coordinated a youth information session on the school budgeting process with small group activities and discussions. “I wake up every day trying to figure out how to engage and promote youth voice and I love it,” he said.
Staton’s dedication impresses Brooks, “He’s such a great role model for young people. It’s so good to work with someone who really means what they say.”