Tay Anderson, the young activist who caught Denver’s attention when he became the youngest person to run for the Denver Board of Education, is stepping down from his role as president of youth-led gun-control advocacy group Never Again Colorado and considering another run for the school board.
In a video posted to his Facebook page on July 17, Anderson explained: “I want to give back to the community, but the best way to do that is by being educated. I had so many people of my ancestors and in my family that fought for me to be able to have the right for my education, and so I wanted to make sure I’m continuing those goals, especially going into my sophomore year of college.”
Anderson told the Never Again Colorado board of his decision on July 16; it came as a surprise after a well-attended town hall event on July 13 with activists from Parkland, Florida, survivors of Columbine, and young student leaders in Colorado. “We were caught off guard, to say the least,” says Evan Davis, director of public relations for Never Again Colorado. “There was a little bit of shock when the news hit us. Naturally, we have a group of young people, and a lot of people who are very committed to the movement, so there was a little bit of high emotions running.”
Anderson realizes that his announcement was a bit of a shock. “I don’t think that they were ready or expecting this announcement, because I didn’t do any warning," he says. "I march to my own drum. I just kind of go to wherever my head says to go.”
After the July 16 meeting, Never Again Colorado held an emergency phone conference to nominate and vote on a new president. The board chose Ian Gaskins, a student at Mountain Range High School in Westminster who works as an intern for state legislator Joe Salazar. Gaskins is openly gay, adding to Never Again Colorado's track record for diverse youth leadership.
“He has the exact fortitude and character that is indicative and required,” Davis says. “He’s been with us since the beginning; he’s committed to the movement and willing to do whatever it takes.”
Anderson, meanwhile, says he’s enjoying his first days of “retirement” before he goes back to college at Metropolitan State University of Denver, where he is studying education, as well as a new job assisting restorative-justice practices in Aurora Public Schools.
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He’s also considering running for the at-large school board seat that will open up in 2019. Now twenty, Anderson would still be the youngest person ever elected to the board if he runs and wins. He says he still has his eye on the school board because he feels it’s important for youth to be represented, to “give a legitimate voice instead of more lip service.”
Anderson served as president of Never Again Colorado from its inception on March 1; anyone 24 or younger was eligible, but Anderson was the only candidate. "His biggest legacy is bringing us together in the first place,” Davis says, adding that Anderson was the driving force behind the March for Our Lives. “He took fifteen strangers into a room and said, ‘We’re gonna plan a march.’ That’s forever going to be Tay’s legacy, to get us to work together to pull off something so huge.”
Anderson also pushed Never Again Colorado to focus on the impact of gun violence on communities of color, as recently as at the July 13 town hall. He says he's confident that the organization will continue that work.
“I didn’t want to continue to be the center of attention and hog the spotlight,” Anderson says. “I want people to understand there are more young leaders other than just myself.”