On his way to becoming the youngest president ever of the Waukegan Community Unit School District 60 Board of Education, Brandon Ewing got his political feet wet at 16 as a paid canvasser helping former President Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.
It was Obama’s successor, former President Donald Trump, whose election eight years later cemented and accelerated Ewing’s political activism with a run for the school board.
“I decided after Trump’s election, I no longer wanted to be a bystander,” Ewing said.
Since then, Ewing was not only elected to the school board in 2017 at age 25, becoming its president two years later, but also started a networking group for millennials and a Facebook page he calls Fathers Matter.
His activism has been noticed by his political elders.
Ewing received the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Foundation’s Generation Next award on Feb. 15 in Springfield for his multiple leadership efforts among his peers, getting them more involved in their community.
“He got young people and others engaged in the community in a lot of different endeavors,” said state Sen. Adriane Johnson, D-Buffalo Grove, who nominated Ewing for the award, along with state Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan. “He is very professional, personable and very sharp.”
Mayfield, a onetime District 60 school board vice president before becoming a member of the Illinois General Assembly, said Ewing’s efforts with fathers and millennials was an important factor leading toward the award.
“He has really grown in his position on the school board,” Mayfield said. “He has done great work with millennials. He has had a significant impact on the community.”
Less than a year after Ewing became school board president in April of 2109, schools closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. He said he helped guide the school community through remote education and returning to school safely with COVID-19 still a threat. It was a challenging but proud time, Ewing said.
“We made sure our school families had access to meals at over 100 different locations,” Ewing said of a program continuing availability to free breakfast and lunch as children learned at home on computers. “We couldn’t have done it without the collaboration of my fellow board members.”
Johnson said around the same time, school districts like Waukegan needed financial help to make sure families were fed as children were learning remotely during the pandemic. Ewing was one of the people who lobbied the legislature for assistance as $7.5 million was allocated.
“You could tell by his passion how much he cared,” Johnson said. “He worked with us, and was very successful helping to get that bill passed.”
Currently a senior manager with an area credit union, Ewing’s activism is not only about politics. Sensing a need for people his age to get to know each other, he cofounded Millennials Connected.
“It’s a networking group for young professionals and entrepreneurs who live in northern Illinois and southeastern Wisconsin,” Ewing said. “It gives us a chance to network and get to know each other.”
A father at 16 and now raising three sons, Ewing said he felt there were other young men similarly situated. He started a Facebook page — Fathers Matter — and it now has more than 1.1 million followers.
“There was a lot of organic growth,” Ewing said. “It was something that was needed.”
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February 23, 2023 at 06:06PM