In Our Midst | From the classroom to the school committee, Weldai looks to jumpstart an educational career

Anyone who wanders around the upstairs of the campus center looking for a place to study might have noticed the large, rectangular blue and yellow sticker on the door of the Tufts Election Commission office boldly announcing, “Adam Weldai, Malden School Council, Ward 5.”

Inside the office, an affable and exuberant young man adjusts his glasses. “I’m a talker,” he says. “And all my friends know it.”

While most Jumbos begin their careers after they don their caps and gowns in May and enter the real world, sophomore Adam Weldai is getting a head start this spring.

Weldai is running for a seat on the Malden School Committee, and if elected, he will be the youngest person in Malden history to fill the position.

Malden, a nearby city with a population of approximately 56,000, is Weldai’s hometown, and he hopes to continue his career there after graduation.

An American studies major, Weldai plans to earn his masters degree in education and to become a teacher in the Malden school district.

“I would like nothing more than to go back to Malden to teach,” Weldai said. “My goal is to win and serve for four years, but my end goal is to start teaching. Being elected to the committee would be a reintroduction to the school system that I will hopefully be working in a few years from now.”

Weldai said his career plan is anything but typical.

“A lot of people take the road of teaching, retiring, and then running for school committee,” he said. “I just decided to do it all backwards.”

Weldai, who attended Malden High School, served on the Malden School Committee as its high school representative. He was consecutively voted in all four years by about 1700 students.

“When I ran for high school representative, the position had just been created,” he said. “It was an incredible introduction to what goes on behind the scenes.”

This time around, Weldai would be representing a much larger and more diverse constituency.

“There are about 3,000 people in the district I’ll be running in. It may be a lot harder to convince the community than it was the students, but it may also be a lot more fun,” he said.

The Committee includes a total of eight representatives for each of the eight Malden wards, one student representative from Malden High School, and the mayor, who serves as committee chair. Weldai’s opponents include Lisa D’Arcangelo, a parent, cosmetologist and new resident of Malden, and Rob Demarco, also a parent and a lawyer practicing in Malden.

“Since I served on the committee for four years, even though I’m the youngest person running I’m technically the most experienced,” Weldai said.

Weldai explained that his perspective, having been a high school student just two years ago, makes him a good fit for the position.

“I think I’m best suited to represent the community’s needs and the school district in times of education and change,” he said. “Most of the committee is in their forties, so I would bring not only a youthful perspective, but also the educator perspective.”

According to Weldai, the current committee lacks this perspective.

“Right now serving on the committee we have lawyers, insurance workers, people who work at the YMCA, but no teachers or students other than the one student representative,” he said. “It would be nice to see the students and teachers have more of an influence on the committee work.”

Weldai said Malden’s attitude toward education sets it apart from other towns and cities in the area.

“Malden is an incredibly innovative and civil minded city,” he said.

According to Weldai, the Malden School system, which includes a total of six separate schools, is one of the few Boston school systems experimenting with an extended day program.

The program, which keeps students in the school for another hour and a half to hour and 45 minutes per day, will be at the top of the committee’s agenda this year.

Weldai said the extended day program is, “a great idea,” as it keeps students safe as they learn and engage in enrichment activities.

He said it also and allows the district to better compensate its teachers.

“In grades K through four, they do a great job of keeping the kids engaged in a non-stressful way,” he said. “And in grades five through eight, it’s a great preparatory stage for kids about to enter high school because high school days are long days. Maybe you’re not in the classroom all the time, but they’re definitely longer and more stressful.”

Currently, only one of Malden’s schools is trying out the extended day program. Weldai said that, if elected, he would work hard to institute the program in all five of Malden’s K-8 schools.

Also high on the committee’s agenda are the annual budget and student safety issues. According to Weldai, the annual budget is “always a grab bag because there’s always a budget crisis going on,” he said.

At the same time, the city has had to address safety issues, including problems with gang violence and students wearing their gang colors.

“[Safety issues have] become an increasing concern for the police department and school committee members,” he said.

Yet Weldai feels confident that he possesses the skills and knowledge to battle each of these issues.

“I have a lot of knowledge of how school budgets work, and I follow very closely the trends and direction of where extended day is going in the Massachusetts State Legislature,” he said. “I also still have a good rapport with people in the school system and I would love to help bridge the gap and increase communications between the school and the parents.”

Weldai has been busy gaining experience both inside and outside the classroom that will help prepare him for a future as a hopeful committee member and educator.

At Tufts, Weldai is the chair of the Tufts Election Commission, a Hillel board member and a scholar at the Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service. In the Malden community, Weldai works as a substitute teacher at the Salemwood School, and with the Parent Teacher Organization at the Forestdale School, both in the Malden School District.

Weldai also works with the Partnership for Community Schools in Malden to help create after school and summer programs, and with the Medford public schools Early Childhood Department, where he is helping create a community resource guide.

While Malden and Tufts may seem to be two very different environments, Weldai asserts that there’s a much stronger connection between the two than the average Jumbo might think.

The Tufts education department’s graduate program sends a number of student teachers and engineering fellows to Malden each year.

It was this program that first introduced Weldai to Tufts, through the Tufts student teachers in his 10th-grade biology and world history classes.

“Tufts really became my home because of that program,” Weldai said. “My first visit here was through the supervisor of those student teachers, and she introduced me to my current advisor.”

Malden also works with other academic institutions, such as Lesley University, Antioch College and Tri-Tech, exposing students to the college environment from an early age.

“Just like at Tufts, Malden is very civic minded and focused on active citizenship and civic engagement,” Weldai said. “You don’t often see that within public school systems nowadays.”

Though being elected would put Weldai in his first public office at an incredibly young age, Weldai said his new position would not be the start of a career in politics.

“People who know me know that my real passion is education and education policy,” he said. “I love that stuff. Politics is an incredible hobby and it’s a lot of fun to watch and follow, but I’m not running for school committee as a political springboard.”

So how does Weldai have time to complete his class work, his extracurricular activities, and embark on a new career as a Malden school committee member?

“I don’t really know!” he said. “Somehow you find a way to make it all work, and you still have time to watch ‘Law & Order’ at the end of the day.”