As an honors student at Grady High School, Matt Westmoreland was struck by the racial differences at his school.
Though a racially mixed school, he was cognizant of the divide, be it the racial homogeny of his honors classes compared with the non-honors courses or even the social interactions where white students mostly hung out in one area and black students in another.
"While it was an amazing four years, I think the problems that plagued Grady are similar to the ones that we face in the city that I've called home my entire life," the Princeton University graduate told a group of Atlanta Public Schools valedictorians and salutatorians in a 2011 speech.
He urged them to give to their communities. "Don't forget about home," he said at the time. "Don't forget about what needs to be done here."
It's that philosophy that he said underscored his becoming a history teacher at Carver Early College three years ago.
Now, the Morningside resident is looking to harness that focus by running for the Atlanta Public Schools Board District 3.
That seat is held by Cecily Harsch-Kinane, who has already said she is she won't seek another term.
"Every child in our city deserves an excellent education that's going to open real opportunity and choice in life," Westmoreland told East Atlanta Patch. "I got an excellent education in my time at Atlanta Public Schools, but I recognize not every student has that opportunity."
His candidacy for District 3, which includes East Lake, East Atlanta, Virginia-Highland, Morningside and portions of Midtown, seeks to do just that, he said.
A graduate of the cluster that includes Morningside Elementary, Inman Middle and Grady, and now as a teacher, Westmoreland said he has the perspective of seeing from both sides what is needed in bringing about change to reduce the achievement gap and the unevenness in schools' academic performance across the city.
If elected, he would join Courtney D. English, an at-large school board member who was a teacher in the district and a graduate of its schools.
A 2006 graduate of Grady, Westmoreland originally planned a career in law.
But he ended up as part of the Teach for America corps, which places recent graduates in schools that have a need for that kind of human capital for a two-year period.
Westmoreland stayed on beyond the two-year commitment, now in his third year as a history teacher at Carver.
He recently sat down with Patch to discuss his candidacy and reasons for running.
Please click on the accompanying video to hear portions of that interview.