Michael Wattendorf: Virginia high school's president of black student union

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Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, in Alexandria, has a white president of their black student union. Most of the black students at the school — who, according to the Washington Post, are very few in number — support Michael Wattendorf’s presidency. For his leadership, he won the Princeton Prize in Race Relations.

“If you have a black-student union and the person who is over it is white . . . what does that say? The pool [of black students] is not that large there,” said Charisse Glassman, who chairs the Fairfax County NAACP’s education committee and has met with TJ officials to discuss ways to increase minority enrollment. “A white person cannot understand what black children are going though when they go to that school.”

To others, Wattendorf’s presidency is a symbol of something more high-minded about the school: Its black students were willing to look beyond race.

“It’s a great reflection on the people who voted for me. They didn’t let race be a factor in their voting — they voted on the merits of my ideas,” said Wattendorf, 17, who spearheaded a mentoring program for elementary schools in Fairfax with high minority populations and just won the Princeton Prize in Race Relations.

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