BOE District 2 appointee admits he did not graduate from Cedar Shoals

At the Clarke County School District Board of Education meeting on Jan. 16, the board appointed Antwon (Keyantwon) Stephens to fill the vacant District 2 seat. In his speech, Stephens implied that he graduated from Cedar Shoals High School in 2014. Stephens now admits that he did not graduate from Cedar Shoals.

“I definitely apologize for it coming out that way but the graduation was not from Cedar Shoals,” Stephens said. He attended the school in 2010-11 and again the following year.

Stephens says he has begun informing BOE members that he did not graduate from Cedar Shoals, but he has not yet informed all members.

In his speech at the meeting before being appointed, Stephens said, “My story is that of a young person that’s recently out of Clarke County School District — Cedar Shoals High School class of 2014.”

In his application packet obtained by BluePrints Magazine via open records, Stephens wrote, “Clarke County School District native/Cedar Shoals High School 2014.” He also asked the board for “a grace period” to submit the two letters of support required to be considered for the position. Stephens said he was out of town for a death in the family in an e-mail to the board. 

When asked who might have sent the letters of support, Stephens said, “I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying without knowing for sure or asking those supporters first. I was dealing with the death in the family around that time and notified the board, which allowed for them to be sent by the individuals themselves with me being out of town.” 

During the school board meeting, some members discussed the advantages of a representative who attended Clarke County schools. 

“I’ve seen some intergenerational types of things that I feel a younger person would add to on this board, having that perspective, being a person who has recently graduated from our district,” District 9 representative Tawana Mattox said at the meeting. “This young man is very committed, and he has done everything that he said that he did in terms of making this community better.” 

District 2 representative Greg Davis said Stephens was his second choice for the seat, citing the same reasons Mattox stated before supporting Stephens in the final vote.

According to the 23-year old Stephens, he attended Cedar Shoals High School for his freshman and sophomore years as well as part of his junior year as a member of the class of 2014. Stephens did not graduate from Cedar Shoals, however, as was confirmed both by Stephens and reporting by BluePrints. 

Additionally, Stephens’ photo does not appear in the 2013-14 yearbook nor the preceding ones, and his name does not appear in the 2014 graduation program. While Stephens says he left Cedar Shoals before beginning his senior year, he was removed in his sophomore year of 2011 for lack of attendance, according to a records keeper.

Stephens says he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in 2014 after being treated for asthma for most of his childhood. Around 30,000 people have cystic fibrosis in the United States and between 900-1,000 people are diagnosed every year. 

“I was very sickly as a child. It was a lot growing up having a disease like that and not even knowing about it,” Stephens said. 

According to Stephens, his time sick and in the hospital prevented him from attending public school. He says he left Cedar Shoals before graduating because of his illness. 

After leaving Cedar Shoals, Stephens says he initially enrolled at the online National High School in Norcross, Georgia. After about a month of enrollment at National High School, Stephens says, he enrolled at James Madison High School and Ashworth College which are also online schools.

James Madison High School and Ashworth College are sister schools providing students with an alternative to traditional high school education. James Madison High School offers online high school credits and Ashworth College offers vocational college credits. 

Stephens says while he was enrolled at Ashworth he also took classes online with the Christian Leaders Institute in Chicago. There he says he received a Christian Studies diploma and was ordained as a minister at age 17.

Stephens also ran for Athens mayor in 2018, though before the election he dropped out of the race and endorsed eventual Mayor Kelly Girtz. He claims to have raised over $100,000 in his mayoral campaign. 

Stephens officially entered the race for the U.S. House of Representatives on Dec. 16, 2019, to represent Georgia’s 9th Congressional District. The minimum age to serve in the House of Representatives is 25. Stephens, born in June 1996, is below the minimum age to be sworn into office. In an interview, Stephens acknowledged that he is aware of being below the minimum age to hold office. 

Stephens dropped out of the congressional race once he was appointed to represent District 2 on the CCSD BOE and plans to run again for the school board seat in May. However, Stephens’ campaign fundraising account on ActBlue still appears to be active at the time of publication. 

“I endorsed Devin Pandy the night I was appointed for the school board. We will give a big chunk of our donations to him and we will put aside some in case I decide to jump in the 9th Congressional district race,” Stephens said.

Stephens’ Twitter account @AntwonS2020 shows his first tweet on Dec. 4, 2019. On Dec. 18, famous actress Alyssa Milano tweeted her support for Stephens with a link to his ActBlue fundraising page after initially asking if a candidate would be running against current District 9 Representative Republican Doug Collins. The tweet received 2,649 retweets and 18,400 likes with few responders acknowledging the age requirements to hold a seat in Congress. 

A BIG BOOST: Actress and activist Alyssa Milano’s tweet sharing Stephens’ campaign fundraising boosted his visibility and support nationwide. Stephens is currently 23 years old and would only be 24 had he won the election, making him ineligible to serve as a U.S. Representative currently.

Stephens believes the Democratic party has a good chance of winning the race after Collins announced on Jan. 29 that he is running for the United States Senate

Stephens said he plans to meet Clarke County students soon.  

“I’ll be visiting every school in Clarke County over the next couple weeks. I look forward to coming back to Cedar and meeting the current students,” Stephens said.

*BluePrints Magazine reporter Emma McElhannon, Assistant Editor Brittany Lopez, and News Editor Stephany Gaona-Perez contributed to research and reporting for this article.