West Potomac senior awarded for effort to bridge gap between students, police

Clarke and Kerr

West Potomac senior Kameron Clarke and Rob Kerr, who teaches the Combating Intolerance elective at the school.

The summer before her junior year, Kameron Clarke started paying more attention to the news and the world around her. In her observations, one thing stood out the most.

“It seemed like a black man was being shot by police every week,” she said. “I remember being scared for my dad, and seeing my family members in those lost lives.”

Clarke felt compelled to do something. Starting last November, she began organizing a school-wide police relations seminar, an idea she first introduced in her Combating Intolerance elective class at West Potomac High School.

“I hope that students will feel more comfortable with the police and know how to respectfully interact with them,” Clarke said. “I also hope that when officers have to pull kids over or stop them for any reason, they think about the kind students of West Potomac and can interact … without an escalation on both parts.”

Kameron Clarke speaks during her seminar. (Image courtesy of Nicole Borghard)

The focus of the seminar would be to foster safer interactions between students and local police, known as community policing. She had West Potomac’s school resource officer, along with her Combating Intolerance teacher Rob Kerr, help plan the event.

“My class has set the way for Kameron to complete activities like this and others because I make sure that students understand their individual platforms for change and how to best utilize those platforms,” Kerr said. “It also gives students the time during the school day to be planning such activities as they choose (very little ‘pressure’ from me on these efforts).”

While Kerr provided some input in the initial planning and coordinated with the school, he credits Kameron with doing most of the work.

Clarke held the seminar on April 19, and her efforts leading up to the seminar were impressive enough to earn her a Fairfax County Student Peace Award in March.

“Kameron is an amazing young lady,” West Potomac principal Tangy Millard said. “I have had the pleasure of speaking with her in her many leadership roles at West Potomac. She is truly an exemplar for West Potomac and we are very proud of her. Given her peace project, it takes courage to bridge the conversation between community and law enforcement. Her work can ultimately lead to a more collaborative and safe community. The impact of her work is tremendous.”

As Clarke wraps up a busy senior year, she said she plans on continuing her activism after graduation, though she is still deciding how she wants to do it. She plans on proposing a potential community policing bill to State Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36), a West Potomac alumnus. However, she is still thankful for the opportunities and recognition she has been given just recently.

“It means so much to me that out of almost 3,000 students at my school I’m the student they feel represents peace and work is being recognized,” Clarke said. “Social justice is extremely important to me and peaceful interactions are so important it just really means a lot. I’m very thankful to have Mr. Kerr as a teacher who supports me and helped me get the project going.”