CLYDE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – At 19 years old and just out of high school, you may have been starting your first year of college or a summer job, but for one recent Clyde high school graduate, he wants to be the voice for his peers.

It wasn’t long ago at all that Anthian Ortiz, 19, dreamt of being a paleontologist, growing up a huge Jurassic Park fan. But after an extended educational pause during the COVID-19 pandemic, his interests began to shift.

Anthian Ortiz, 19, of Clyde, TX

At home, Ortiz said he began soaking up newscasts, learning and asking questions about the political sphere, which lead him to look at law school at Texas Tech as a potential next step. That leads to now, just days after he threw his hat in the ring to become one of Clyde CISD’s newest school board members.

“We have parents on the board, former teachers on there,” Ortiz listed. “Another perspective that makes the school run efficiently is having the students on there, and that’s what I believed in.” 

Having graduated in the spring of 2022, Ortiz experienced and heard the needs of the students firsthand in the hallways, classrooms, and locker rooms at Clyde High School.

“There was a lot of stress in the school,” recalled Ortiz. “All this stress made these kids feel like they had all this weight and all this pressure on them.” 

Mental health was the main focus of Ortiz’s first campaign to give his peers a voice on a larger stage.

At points in his high school career, Ortiz said his peers would call the hallways ‘dreary with a sense of sadness,’ almost like a storm cloud hovered over the lockers.

“One of the things I wanted to push was mental health,” Ortiz brought attention back. “All you have to do is tell them they are loved, they belong here, and they have an ultimate purpose in life.”

While easier said than done, Ortiz said he believes with his input he could have worked with the other school board members to create an environment kids want to learn in, be present every day, and provide the same mental healthcare to teachers that the students were provided, as well.

The confident Clyde native was not always the advocate and vocal leader you’ll run into today, not according to one of his biggest role models, Clyde debate teacher Kara Barbee.

“Sometimes it’s the really quiet ones that start to grow and start to show who they are, and it’s really surprising,” Barbee explained. “Anthian was that kid. He was quiet.”

Kara Barbee, teacher at Clyde High School

Barbee recalled seeing him grow throughout high school, starting out as a football player and moving into cross country, then after the pandemic, finding himself in her classroom for debates.

Ortiz jokingly said he was put in the class because his mother said he was good at arguing. However, it became a blessing to him. Barbee said she saw this quiet young man, who would sit in the back of the classroom, mature and come into his own over the two years she taught him.

“He realized he had voice, and I think, honestly, that is a really inspirational thing for our future students,” marveled Barbee. “They can see they can be the quiet kid, too, but they can also grow to be that inspiration.”

It was a lesson Barbee preached daily that Ortiz said helped lay the foundation for his starting campaign. He said she taught him, as well as others, to not be afraid of who they are and to embrace the opinions they are capable of forming.

Those lessons would soon act as a steppingstone for Ortiz on his journey to help the next generation feel heard and know their voices matter.

Ortiz fell 60 votes shy of becoming the next member of the Clyde CISD school board. Although the ultimate outcome didn’t show in his favor, Ortiz told KTAB/KRBC he was overwhelmed by the support of the generations of voters beyond his own.

The young man said his seniors encouraged him to press on and inspire more young people to vote, because if they want change, they have the power to create it.

Ortiz also said if he’s not too busy with law school in the future, he hopes to have the opportunity to run again, get elected, and positively impact the city he loves so much.