When Charles Ferrer graduates from Penn State in May, he will not have to scramble to etch out a new path of impact.
Hailing from Bergenfield, N.J., the upperclassman ran a grassroots campaign contesting for a position on the Bergenfield Board of Education. The 21-year old amassed 2,325 votes, edging out one incumbent and two newcomers, ultimately securing one of two positions on the five-member board, he said.
“When the poll workers were tabulating the poll totals and they said that I had an early lead, I was just in complete awe that I actually might be able to pull this off,” Ferrer (senior-geography) said.
Ferrer, who has long harbored a penchant for giving back to the community, said the idea of running for public service first crossed his mind as a freshman, but started materializing in the beginning of his junior year.
Between February and Election Day, Ferrer said his days were marked by traveling, heavy campaigning and leading a “traditional grassroots effort” of handing out literature, as well as engaging citizens of his borough on important issues.
Ferrer added that research shows that his victory makes him one of the youngest elected officials in New Jersey and the first Filipino and Asian-American to seal a position on the Bergenfield Board of Education.
Using his young age to his advantage, Ferrer said he was the first candidate to use social media to propel his efforts as a grassroots candidate.
While the board does not run the school system, Ferrer said that its delegated responsibilities include giving final approval on major policy and curriculum changes within the school district, hiring of personnel and handling a $60 million district budget.
Utilizing his public policy experience through various internships at U.S. governmental institutions, Ferrer created a platform with multiple objectives. He said he plans to establish a nonvoting student representative to the board and strives for increased transparency between the school board and the general public.
Saron Guintu (senior-supply chain and information systems), a friend of Ferrer’s since middle school, said his charisma, passion and great time management and organization skills will allow him to best serve the position.
Kevin O’Brien, campaign manager for Steve Bullock’s governor campaign in Montana — whom Ferrer interned for over the summer — further attested to the senior’s potential as a leader.
“What is really incredible is that within a week of being in Montana, Charles was on a first name basis with the governor of the state, the attorney general, and both the United States senators,” he said.
An individual of diverse talents, Ferrer’s interests fare well beyond public policy as his interests include but are not limited to music, participating in the Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon and traveling.
In the future, Ferrer said he aims to find a position in community development or emergency management within the New York City Metro area after graduation.
Though Ferrer can now call himself an elected official — as he is set to be sworn in in early January for a full three-year term on the board — he said his precocious ways do not get in way of his youth.
“At the end of the day, people can still see me jogging around Beaver Stadium or lounging in the HUB,” he said. “And my friends will certainly still hear me laughing a block away.”