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Derrell Simpson’s political career looked bleak last year, when he lost his bid to head the Bertie Backus Middle School student government association (“Little Big Shot,” 11/29/02). But the 14-year-old pol is taking a comeback route trod with great regularity by downtown operatives: He has become a D.C. contractor.
Last month, the Mayor’s Office of Community Outreach tapped Simpson’s newly incorporated youth-advocacy consulting firm, Nvision Inc., to boost youth participation at Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ Citizen Summit III on Nov. 1. So while many D.C. schoolkids spent Columbus Day catching up on reruns of Blind Date or taking in a matinee at Union Station, Simpson pitched the summit to participants in a double-Dutch contest at the University of the District of Columbia.
Simpson’s efforts on the mayor’s behalf, however, won’t send the D.C. budget into disarray: Nvision Inc. is doing this one gratis. “Because we’re a new company, I arranged not to do this for pay,” explains Simpson, who is Nvision’s CEO, overseeing about a dozen staffers. “This is going to put us on the map.”
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Simpson, now a freshman at School Without Walls Senior High School, founded Nvision earlier this year with former Youth Mayor Michael Clark, a senior at Hyde Leadership Public Charter School and Nvision’s chief operating officer. Nvision’s org chart includes veterans of the Backus machine, including former opponents Kiana Bundrige and Ibijoke Akinbowale. Bundrige is in charge of account management for Nvision, and Akinbowale is a community-outreach worker, says Simpson.
Nvision is paying the bills with another plum gig: promoting the Miss District of Columbia Teen USA pageant. The pageant contracted with Nvision last month to the tune of approximately $200 to $300. The exact figure is still under negotiation, says Simpson. “We haven’t worked that out yet. But I know we will be getting paid,” he says.
As part of the contract, Simpson says, he’s been lining up speaking engagements for reigning Miss District of Columbia Teen USA, Natasha Prakash. And he protests that being a beauty queen isn’t all tiaras and bouquets. “It’s not just like they out there being pretty,” Simpson says. “[Prakash] is always talking about getting voting rights for D.C.”
Simpson’s corporate job should prepare him for his volunteer duties with the D.C. Commission on National and Community Service, to which the mayor recently appointed him. He’ll be joining the likes of D.C. Parks and Recreation Director Neil Albert and D.C. First Mom Virginia Hayes Williams in promoting do-gooder projects in the District.
Simpson won’t be sworn in until December, but he says that commission Executive Director Deborah Gist has told him that as soon as he gets his résumé in, he won’t have to wait long to get down to work: “She said I don’t need the mayor’s approval to perform my duties.” CP