Picture a young girl in the classroom, afraid to raise her hand when teachers ask questions because she struggles with pronouncing words and forming sentences.
That was me.
Like so many Americans, I grew up in a single-parent household with a loving family and a mother who provided for me and my siblings.
My mother encouraged me to complete high school and attend college, and I believe every child should be afforded that opportunity and have the educational resources in place to fulfill that dream. I did not have those opportunities for a variety of reasons – lack of resources and family engagement, and someone to advocate for my educational needs.
My mother, like many single mothers, did the best she could with the resources she had. I love that saying: “When we know better, we do better.”
Before moving to Fort Wayne, I had some educational supports, but those were not in place after my transition to Indiana.
There are many children in Indiana living with some form of disability. Many of them attend Fort Wayne Community Schools, the largest public-school district in Indiana.
According to the Indiana Department of Education's Special Education Child Count, as of April 1, 2019, there were 165,571 children in Indiana living with some form of disability, an increase of 0.81% from April 2018 to April 2019. The range of disabilities a child may be living with includes emotional and learning disabilities, language/speech impairment and cognitive disabilities that can be mild, moderate or severe. Some children have multiple disabilities.
Being able to detect developmental delays and disabilities early on is essential to a child's success and educational experience. Having an advocate is even more important, especially if that support is not coming from home for whatever reason. Family engagement is often the key to our children's success, but what happens to those children who do not have that support or resources? I know there continues to be a big gap in support for students in their home environment.
Nationally, one in four children drop out of school before they finish high school. For African American and Hispanic students, the challenge is even greater, with the likelihood of graduating on time from high school only 65%. Many of these students do not have access to positive mentors or an educational advocate.
I am running for the Fort Wayne Community Schools board District 2 seat to be that voice and advocate for children who may not have someone to speak on their behalf. I have worked in social services for 30-plus years and still work with children and families. I know firsthand we still have a long way to go.
As more resources are being drained from public education, more students are falling further behind. On a local level, we have to work with the hand we are being dealt. We must use the resources we have to create a high-quality educational environment that supports all children while we continue to advocate on the state level.
My vision is to create a collective, collaborative community effort in support of our children's educational needs. Our public schools cannot do this alone.
I want to ensure processes and policies are in place that support all children's needs. Special education resources must be available to evaluate and assist children who may have disabilities, while we continue to support those who excel academically.
If elected, I plan to work with school board members for the best interests of all children and to support our superintendent. My approach will be to ask questions, speak out and investigate if need be to ensure policies are being implemented and evaluated. I will always try to build bridges and work collaboratively with other school board members and our superintendent.
Regenia Jones of Fort Wayne is a candidate for the District 2 seat on the Fort Wayne Community Schools board.