Alumni Q + A: Mausjon Sanders
J: When did you join PSU?
M: If I remember correctly, I originally joined PSU about five years ago when I was about to go into my ninth grade year. I actually had a chance encounter with one of the current organizers at the time and he told me about some program that we call it BAYM or building a youth movement. After I went there and spent a bit more of my summer with with the people around there, I really liked everything I was learning there from actually more of a political climate that I never knew about, some movement actions that I learned a bit at a school but never had as much detail put into it as the program really put in, and when they offered me the position to take this even further, I said, why not? It's a whole bunch of fun people, [and I] love the actual stuff that I'm learning here.
J: What does PSU mean to you?
M: PSU to me, it feels like a second home. PSU is a place I know I can come back. Even though I've just graduated. I'm no longer technically a student in the system, but I'm still welcome here, I can still pass down the knowledge that I have to the other students that are going to move on to take my place. But as well as the relations, I joined with the other members I was friends with here, as well as the staff and E.D. that I've already built relationships up since day one since I've been here. So I can always fall back and rely on the people that I know and have met here.
J: How has PSU been involved in your school and how did it become involved in your school?
M: So my school was Hardy Williams Mastery Charter High School, but originally PSU actually didn't have any connections into my school until it was for me. Since originally, as many times as many people in my classes will be high and mighty about what they believe in political climate or what we should do in schools, they don't really act upon it as much. So after I joined the organization back in ninth grade, I actually started to tell more of my friends or associates I had in the school about the organization. So I slowly built an actual membership for the Hardy High community to actually join in with PSU. So everybody who hasn't been in PSU from Hardy has actually started to integrate from me.
J: How has PSU been involved in your life outside of school?
M: I guess I would say for a majority of the parts, PSU has allowed me to become much more open minded than I was before. Before I was kind of open minded, but I still kept myself enclosed a bit. But now after I joined the organization, I've taken in much more perspectives of different people and how more people would think of different situations compared to myself and a few other of my friends. I've also taken into the chance of speaking up more, taking up more leadership type roles, actually doing a lot more research, which is a really good thing for me since research is one of the many things I love to do when it comes to really deep topics. And really overall just pushed me to really use my determination more often than I'm used to.
J: What is the most memorable time or event you have been a part of as a PSU member?
M: I guess the one that I probably would have to say is when we helped organize Youth Set the Stage because that has to be one of the biggest events that we have really taken part of as an initiative to help other organizations and have so many organizations pull in all together just mostly deriving from youth ourselves, instead of usually how we take business trips to go talk to other organizations in different states, but here it was just completely Philly based. It was completely youth based and every single organization had their youth be able to take the stage and talk to a whole bunch of people and show off what they're doing, and be able to connect with a lot of the organization that not many people actually knew about each other beforehand. So I'd say that's one of the most memorable things that I'll not forget for a long time.
J: What has PSU done to shape your knowledge of transformative justice?
M: For the most part, PSU has mostly reinforced the ideas that I had because I always believe that in a large case that the systems that we had in place for schools nowadays it wasn't right for most schools. Most of the time, there's always been something problematic with the the standard systems or the school police that I see beforehand before it even got extremely big. And it's just gotten more and more problematic as years passed and is getting more strict. Even though in reality, people always say, well, students always say school feels like prisons, and this is the reason of why. All the schools put on this front that we're the best school around it's best you choose us to take care of your kid and get them their education. However, the way that your system is actually built up, you have metal detectors, a whole bunch of security cameras, that in some places are absolutely useless. You have a whole bunch of school police that kind of harass the students themselves and then you have bars on the windows which is something very practical in prisons themselves. So it feels as if in the actual environment and atmosphere, the students feel like they're trapped in a prison. They don't feel like they can truly express themselves especially with the budgets nowadays now that they're cutting out of art and music, which is one of the most expressive classes that a lot of students use and a big case of how I got really into expressing myself because I used to be an artist and a drummer in band at my school but soon enough, there I hit my 11th and 12th grade year they took both of those away down at my school and that cut a big part of how I am as a person out for me being in school. I didn't have much of a reason to stay after school anymore.
J: What are some ways you have advocated for yourself as a student and for your school?
M: So there's a few times that I have done so in my school myself. Because I usually like to keep up good relations with everybody. I don't like having bad blood with people. I don't know how many people can flip between them and like that, but I usually talk to my teachers or sometimes the principal often enough that I knew them as a person. Not as that teacher that teaches me this subject. I know that this is this person, I can come for this who will understand me for this situation. I actually care about good relations. And when I found out one of the systems they added [was] the bathroom passes with limited slots for us to go to the bathroom per month, I actually talked to a couple of my teachers as well as the principal and deans about how problematic this could be for a lot of people. Because even though I'm somebody who doesn't really use the bathroom often in school, because I just never had much of a reason to [go], unless I really, really needed to. I knew there's people that had [to go] and friends in my class that had bathroom problems, that really need to go do so, or girls that I knew because two of my best friends at school were females. They had their time of the month, so they're going to need to go to bathroom more often than others. So I talked to them to see if they can at least try and up the slots because it would be needed for a certain amount of people. It wouldn't be very fair to have five slots for an entire month. It was ridiculous in actual practice.
Luckily, I did win that fight. I actually did win that fight and it got up to 12. So, that's a big one for me. And then there has been very few times that I went to the SRC meetings and spoke out on behalf of the students for the charter side, since not many charter school students were talking at those meetings are actually understanding that there are problems also within our schools, because even though we are charter schools and not made people say we're not part of the actual public school system, a lot of the rules that we divide on is still based on the actual school system itself. So any rules that they say at the school board still gets transferred into our system. They do change, like add on, like a tiny bit more rules. But for the main part, all our student guidelines are the exact same as any other school. So if something changes in public schools it's going to change the charter school too. There's no changing that. So I always took it upon myself to try and speak out for at least the bit of the charter community that I knew.
J: Well, thank you, Mr. Sanders.
M: No problem!
(Interview by Josar Jones)