Riverdale freshman a voice for Clayton youth

By Justin Boron

Few high school school students have a penchant for Bach and Mozart. But Riverdale High School freshman Xavier Ross does.

Rarely do high school students appear before the Clayton County Board of Commissioners and criticize it for not responding to the public. But the 14-year-old did that as well two weeks ago, when the community pressured the board about plans to build recreation centers in the county.

The outspoken, overachieving high school student isn't too concerned with the perceived norm for his peer group anyway. He said it doesn't really hold him back from anything he wants to do.

"I don't like to sit around and let things happen," he said. "I feel like a normal teenager . . . sometimes I do different things."

His community involvement is partly to ensure that young people have a voice to which county leaders will respond, Ross said.

With friends at each high school in the county, he said he is able to keep his finger on the pulse of the community's young people.

Ross is on a laundry list of youth advisory boards and chairs the Clayton County Youth Leadership Planning Committee.

Aside from his interest in leadership and politics, he has an affinity for the fine arts. At Riverdale High School, he is part of the poetry club, plays the viola in the orchestra, and sings in the gospel choir.

Ross said he got interested in the viola after listening to classical music throughout elementary school.

In middle school, he said he saw an opportunity to play the music he loved in the school orchestra.

"The orchestra plays that, so I wanted to be a part of that," he said.

And when the violin spots filled up too quickly, he said, "If I can't play the violin, I'm going to get the closest thing."

Ross said he has three siblings LaScarlett, 9, O'Shae, 18, and his oldest sister Rachel Adams. His parents are Garry and Jennifer Ross.

The freshman class president, who has aspirations to represent the county politically some day, is well connected too.

He receives accolades from several legislators and local leaders.

State Rep. Roberta Abdul-Salaam, D-Riverdale appointed him to her legislative advisory group.

"He is one of those young people who stood out from the beginning," she said. "You never call on him and ask him to do something, and he doesn't step up."

County Commissioner Wole Ralph, who at 26 was the youngest person to be elected to the board, said Ross has a chance at beating him by five years.

Ross is more than just an ambitious young person. Local leaders say he represents the kind of person that Clayton County can produce.

"Xavier is but an example of what we have out here," Abdul-Salaam said.