When DJ Anderson graduated from high school in Lake Stevens, Wash., he was — at fourth from the bottom of his class — not exactly what most would consider a high achiever.
"Ironically, when I was in school, I had a tremendous amount of experience with the administration," Anderson joked.
Now decades later, he's the chairman of the Oregon Trail School District Board of Directors. He's been in the role for 10 years.
"I was not a good student," he admitted. "I think it would be funny for my teachers to be able to see now what I'm doing."
Throughout Anderson's adult life, his appreciation for education and volunteering has grown. He's served in Sandy Kiwanis for 25 years, on both the Sandy Fire District and Clackamas Educational Service District's budget committees; he's acted as a Boy Scout and Cub Scout volunteer; coached youth sports, and he can often be found emceeing community events like the Sandy Mountain Festival Parade or Christmas Tree Lighting.
By day, Anderson works at Suburban Auto Group as a sales manager. A 40-year veteran with the company, Anderson also organizes the Drive 4 UR School program, which donates money to school groups.
"I enjoy giving back and being around other volunteers," he said. "It makes you feel really positive about humanity. I was unfortunate to go through the school of hard knocks to get to where I am today, but there is an easier way. The only thing that kept me there were athletics, and they only kept me there for my athletic ability."
Though he didn't initially value school for the importance of education, he noted that his fellow directors on the school board seem to be there "for the right reasons."
"I think we're blessed with a really good school board," he said. "We're able to discuss things. We have real conversations looking for what works well for the students."
Anderson's involvement with the school board began after a former director passed away unexpectedly, leaving a seat open. Then-directors Kurt McKnight and Terry Lenchitsky asked Anderson to take the appointment to fill the vacancy. He had served on the school budget committee and said he "felt it was a civic duty he was called to do."
"I didn't know I'd end up running for that position later on," Anderson noted, but the opportunity to impact students' lives enticed him to stay on the board. "I'm a big supporter of extracurricular activities."
After school activities are what kept Anderson attending school when he was a student, and remain a big incentive for many others to succeed in school.
"There's no more fun every year than standing up there on that stage at graduation and handing those kids a diploma," he said.
In the time Anderson's spent on the board, he feels he and his fellow directors have made strides in the right direction for the district. He credits the board and district staff with a rise in grades and graduation rates, an increase in facility security improvements and the addition of dual enrollment offerings for Sandy High School students to earn college credits before graduation.
"The days you know you've done something that helps out students and staff — that's something for the community to be proud of. That's rewarding," he said. "We have some of the best teachers and staff."
But plenty of work needs to be done.
"I'm greatly worried about inequities, (ensuring) equal access for all students to information and resources (regardless of income or location)," he said.
Anderson hopes to be re-elected in May so he can help address those challenges as well as others, such as crowding in the grade schools caused by more families moving to Sandy.
Anderson moved to Sandy in 1990 to raise his family, and his children grew up through the Oregon Trail schools.
"I love the community," Anderson said. "It truly still is — and I hope it will be — a community."
Quality local journalism takes time and money, which comes, in part, from paying readers. If you enjoy articles like this one, please consider supporting us.
(It costs just a few cents a day.)