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William Poff-Webster was born in Brooklyn, New York. His family moved to the Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain several years later, where he began school at the Trotter School in Dorchester, and later moved on to the Mission Hill School and the Neighborhood School in JP. He entered Boston Latin in 7th grade. After enduring Sixie year, he began to enjoy BLS in 8th grade when he became active in theater and the BLS Model United Nations Club.
William went on to join BLS’s Yellow Submarine Improv Troupe in 9th grade, and the Argo Newspaper in 10th grade. He considers extracurricular activities to be a major benefit of attending Boston Latin. He also pursues his passion for history in school, particularly with the assistance of the inimitable Dr. Neary.
William’s interest in public service grew out of two simultaneous events in 2007: the beginning of the presidential election and his involvement in the summer program Suburban and Urban Justice. With the beginning of an open-ended primary at an incredibly important time for the nation, William was drawn to the promise of change in the 2008 election. He ended up volunteering for now-President Barack Obama in New Hampshire. At the same time, William attended a social justice summer program in Jamaica Plain that opened his eyes to the hidden inequalities around him and in the wider world. He was taught why to care about social justice issues, but equally important, what to do about them. In the summer of 2008, he returned as a staff member at Suburban and Urban Justice, and began having thoughts of using his own leadership to help put a dent in the problems he saw in his community and the world.
During the 2008-2009 school year, Boston Latin School was rocked by significant budget cuts affecting several beloved teachers and the art, music, and theater departments, all essential to each student’s quality-of-life. William co-founded a group called BPS SAFE, the Boston Public School Student Alliance For the Future of Education, that brought students together to empower them to fight for funding for their schools. William helped to lead BPS SAFE in organizing three student rallies to protest the lack of education funding held at the Mayor’s State of the City Address, the School Committee, and the State House. BPS SAFE partnered with other youth organizations to lobby the state legislature to provide more funding that could go toward needy Boston schools.
Organizing around the budget cuts taught William the importance of grassroots political action. He believes that the mobilization of common people, particularly young people, who throw off their apathy and realize that they can make a difference, is needed to set and keep all of our levels of government on the right track. William is a fervent believer in the ability of altruistic politicians to uplift their communities and change the negative perception of politics in the United States; he could see himself working for or possibly even becoming one of those figures someday.
Through the Ward Fellowship, William has had that ‘someday’ come significantly sooner—he is currently working for State Representative Marty Walsh of Dorchester. He is continuing his work with BPS SAFE, hoping to help in the creation of a Boston Student Union in 2010, along with the Boston Student Advisory Council. He has continued learning about leadership through participation in 2009 Massachusetts Boys’ State, and has his work cut out for him next year as Editor-in-Chief of the Argo, a Co-Captain in the Improv Troupe, and Co-President of Model UN. William is not quite sure where his life will take him, but would like politics and community organization to remain a part of his future.