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Connor Traut: Dedication, Perseverance, and Public Service

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Chapman chapter.

Connor Traut 

Year: Senior

Age: 21

Hometown: Anaheim

Major(s): Economics and Political Science

Favorite Quote: “Wisdom lies not in possessing knowledge – which quickly becomes outdated – but in perpetually seeking it.” – Charles Darwin

Q: How did you come to govern a school district?

A: Two key events brought me down the path to public service – witnessing the hate that backed Proposition 8, and experiencing the lack of teen-oriented programs in my community. When in high school, I began in public service by founding my community’s Teen Leadership Council, which promotes civic involvement from a young age, and holding forums in support of equality with progressive churches. 

This volunteer work led me down the path to earn appointment as a county Juvenile Justice Commissioner by the age of 19, where I continued to work to end the school-to-prison pipeline by bringing restorative justice measures to local school districts. After experiencing visible progress, and attending local school board meetings for over a year, I was asked to run by many in my community to serve as Trustee for the Centralia Elementary School District. The District serves elementary students in Anaheim, Buena Park, Cypress, and La Palma.

With backing from dozens of local elected officials, many diverse organizations, and hundreds of local families, I campaigned by walking door-to-door for over 5 months, in which I spoke with over 8,000 families about ways I could best serve the needs of our disadvantaged students and families. I ran against a current Trustee, two former Trustees, and the termed-out Mayor, yet managed to earn the support of the District as the highest vote-getter. I have now been serving since December of 2014.

Q: In what ways has it been rewarding for you, and in what ways difficult? 

A: Since I began serving as a Trustee, I have focused on a vision of serving the needs of our shadow population – the underrepresented disadvantaged children and families who deserve a fair shot at a better life. Though the slower speed at which government responds may be somewhat difficult, being able to work with a supportive board and staff has been incredibly encouraging. This year, my colleagues and I have created policies and programs that: incentivize further parent engagement, improve access to technology, increase family services during the summer, expand our on-site preschools, invest in more arts and physical education, and are making strides to end local childhood hunger. Creating real change in my students’ lives continues to be increasingly rewarding.

Q: What kinds of activities does your job involve, and what lessons have you learned from it? 

A: As a Trustee, I regularly visit our campuses, have meetings with parents and teachers, participate in District and campus events, hold public school board meetings and public hearings, negotiate labor contracts, approve the budget and our curriculum, and direct staff to implement a progressive vision for our District. Outside of being a Trustee, I remain in my to work as a county Juvenile Justice Commissioner and also serve on the board of directors for local non-profits, including Cops for Kids and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Anaheim.

I continue to learn that everyone has wisdom to share, in that opening your mind to a more-fuller picture of process and outcomes, from the view of others, will lead you to become a more compassionate and understanding person. The most impactful aspects of my young successes have been assisted with the help of opening my initial thoughts to learning from mentors with much more experience than I. Active listening is the skill that I most strive to forever develop.

Q: What are long term aspirations you have for yourself?

A: Moving forward, I plan to stay in Anaheim and attend law school next fall. As for the school board, I plan to someday soon serve as President of the District, where I can even better implement my vision for creating equality of opportunity for the students and families who need us most. I am excited to move forward on opening our campuses for community use, keeping more children out of gangs, investing in upgrading our campus’ facilities, and becoming a mentor to even more of my students.

Q: Tell us some fun facts about you. 

A: At Chapman, I am an active brother, and professional development chair, in the co-ed business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi. As someone who was born in Anaheim, I continue to be a loyal fan of the Angels and Ducks. On weekends, I like to go on vacations to the Colorado River with friends and to San Francisco to visit my girlfriend Cheyenne, who I have been in a relationship with for over four years.