Copper Asks: An 18-year-old Peoria school board candidate tells us why he’s running

Copper Asks: An 18-year-old Peoria school board candidate tells us why he’s running

Mikah Dyer speaking before a group about his campaign for the Peoria Unified School District Governing Board. Photo courtesy Mikah Dyer.

By Robert Gundran
November 1, 2023

“I eventually found what I could speak to—and that was education.”

– Mikah Dyer

Working on a school board is often a thankless task. In Arizona, it’s an unpaid position—and across the country, school board meetings and members have been the target of extreme right-wing agendas. It can sometimes be hard to understand why anyone would run at all.

But school boards are also unparalleled bodies of power. They make decisions about how to spend taxpayer dollars, they oversee employment in school buildings, and they even make the call about the curriculum teachers use in the classroom. So the people we elect to our school boards are absolutely critical to the success of our neighborhood schools and our young people.

In the monthly series Copper Asks, we talk to people working in important roles throughout Arizona to find out what their jobs are like, and what made them want to pursue them in the first place.

This month, we spoke with Mikah Dyer. Mikah’s a 12th grader in the Peoria Unified School District, and he’s also running for a seat on the PUSD Governing Board. He told us he’s running with a priority on student engagement, and making sure students’ voices are heard at all levels of the district. Will having someone representing them in the election bring more new voters to the ballot box? We’ll be watching to find out. The election is on Nov. 5, 2024.

Editor’s Note: This interview was edited for clarity.

Copper Courier: What made you decide this was a position you wanted to pursue?

Mikah Dyer: That’s an interesting question. I was always super into politics, like working on campaigns and things like that. I still love that work.

Both my parents are educators at a university and started as public school teachers, so I kind of grew up in that realm. It was always something that was in the back of my head that I wanted to do.

Throughout high school when I was getting into politics, there wasn’t ever a certain issue I was passionate about. I eventually found what I could speak to—and that was education.

I’ve been in public school from kindergarten until now, and my parents were public school teachers. I’ve really seen what we can do to fix things that aren’t going well.

I really found a passion for wanting to ensure that young people are informed about our history, and civics, and our government, and how they can be involved and make a difference.

READ MORE: Meet the Gen Z school board members fighting Moms for Liberty

CC: What’s been the best thing or your favorite thing about running for school board?

Dyer: I announced my campaign about two-and-a-half months ago. [The best thing is] just being able to talk to teachers, get into the community, and knock on some doors. I get out there and see people’s reaction when they hear someone still in high school is running for office.

The No. 1 thing that has been amazing is talking to my classmates and them finding out I’m running.

CC: Take me through what a day working on your campaign is like.

Dyer: I always start my day with school. I’m a senior so I have a half-day.

Most days it’s looking at what’s happening in the district. I stay informed with what the city and district are doing.

My focus right now is building a volunteer base and building a foundation of fundraising, and knocking doors. Getting out there is my priority.

Mikah Dyer and a group of volunteers and supporters eager to help elect Dyer to the Peoria Unified School District Governing Board. Photo courtesy of Mikah Dyer.

CC: What do you wish you could do more of or have more of on your campaign?

Dyer: People. In 2022, I worked on a state legislative campaign.

Coming from that world of being in a campaign—that campaign had 10x the resources I will have.

I had to shift expectations from a state legislative campaign with five organizers and a finance person to it all falling on my shoulders.

I would love more people to knock on doors and make more phone calls.

CC: What’s one memory from this job that you’ll never forget?

Dyer: I think the launch party we had was amazing. It was a really great event. We raised a ton of money and a lot of people came out. It was exciting to see so many people come out.

There were my friends from school, people I worked with, and community members. Bringing all those people that I’ve known over the years together, that was a great moment.

CC: Anything we missed that you’d like to share or think is important?

Dyer: Anybody can run [for school board], but make sure you understand the community.

I’ve lived in Peoria my entire life. I’ve attended Peoria schools since kindergarten, and I’d love to come back and teach in Peoria.

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Author

  • Robert Gundran

    Robert Gundran grew up in the Southwest, spending equal time in the Valley and Southern California throughout his life. He graduated from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism in 2018 and wrote for The Arizona Republic and The Orange County Register.

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