Park­dale se­nior sworn in as new stu­dent BOE mem­ber

Board, school sys­tem wel­comes Blocker

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES jclinkscales@somd­news.com

The Prince Ge­orge’s County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion and Prince Ge­orge’s County Pub­lic Schools sys­tem wel­comed Park­dale High School se­nior Juwan Blocker as its new­est stu­dent board mem­ber dur­ing a swear­ing-in cer­e­mony Aug. 10 at the Sass­cer Ad­min­is­tra­tion Build­ing in Up­per Marl­boro.

Blocker — who was elected last school year by mem­bers of the Prince Ge­orge’s Re­gional As­so­ci­a­tion of Stu­dent Gov­ern­ments — will repre- sent nearly 130,000 stu­dents in the school sys­tem, pro­vid­ing the ed­u­ca­tion board with a stu­dent view­point on a wide range of is­sues in­clud­ing school in­fras­truc­ture, fund­ing and class­room tech­nol­ogy, ac­cord­ing to a PGCPS press re­lease.

For Blocker, the sec­ond time’s the charm. Now that he has the dis­tin­guished honor to serve, Blocker said he ea­gerly awaits the op­por­tu­nity to be a voice for his peers.

“I think it’s an amaz­ing op­por­tu­nity. It’s go­ing to def­i­nitely be a lot of hard work,” Blocker said in an in­ter­view. “One of the things I like to let peo­ple know, even the stu­dents that I rep­re­sent, is that, ‘Once you step into a lead­er­ship role or po­si­tion, it’s no longer about what’s in the best in­ter­est of me, but what’s in the best in­ter­est of all stu­dents across Prince Ge­orge’s County Pub­lic Schools.’ That’s some­thing that I will keep in the back of my head when I make school board de­ci­sions or out mak­ing a dif­fer­ence.”

Hav­ing served as a lob­by­ist for the county’s stu­dent gov-

ern­ment, Blocker said he had an op­por­tu­nity to hear a lot of is­sues and con­cerns from his peers.

“One of my main things was to look at leg­is­la­tion com­ing up — on the Prince Ge­orge’s County Coun­cil as well as the state leg­is­la­tion — and ba­si­cally tak­ing that in­for­ma­tion, break­ing it down to the stu­dents and then de­cid­ing how we were go­ing to act to­wards the dif­fer­ent pieces of leg­is­la­tion,” he said. “I’m go­ing to try my ab­so­lute best to ad­dress th­ese is­sues with prac­ti­cal so­lu­tions.”

In ad­di­tion to serv­ing on the county level, Blocker has also ad­vo­cated at the state level. He ad­vo­cated in An­napo­lis for ad­e­quate school fund­ing, or­ga­nized and led peace­ful in-school demon­stra­tions for vic­tims of po­lice-in­volved shoot­ings, and even sup­ported low­er­ing the vot­ing age in mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions to age 16, the press re­lease noted.

“This is very ex­cit­ing for me,” said Board Mem­ber and Dis­trict 8 rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ed­ward Bur­roughs III, who has known Blocker for about four years. “When I look at Juwan, I’m re­minded that our young peo­ple are tal­ented, ca­pa­ble and our county will be in good hands. He’s start­ing out as a new stu­dent board mem­ber this year, but I’m con­fi­dent that he’s go­ing to have a long ca­reer in pub­lic ser­vice in this county.”

When it comes to of­fer­ing a stu­dent per­spec­tive, Bur­roughs would ad­vise Blocker to stand his ground and not let any­one make him feel in­ad­e­quate be­cause he is the youngest. Al­though peo­ple are go­ing to smile and pat him on the back, the most im­por­tant thing is that he de­liv­ers for the stu­dents which are his con­stituents, Bur­roughs said.

“I told him, ‘ You vote your con­science no mat­ter what. Do not com­pro­mise your in­tegrity for any­one,’” Bur­roughs said. “You re­ally have to start im­me­di­ately hit the ground run­ning, that’s one thing. The sec­ond is that you have to know how to nav­i­gate. This is a po­lit­i­cal body so you have to be very skill­ful with that and you have to build coali­tions of stu­dents and sup­port. … This ex­pe­ri­ence will ben­e­fit him for the rest of his life, no doubt. I’m very proud of him. I know he’s go­ing to do a great job.”

“I think it’s fan­tas­tic that stu­dents have an op­por­tu­nity to serve on the board of ed­u­ca­tion,” said Kevin Maxwell, CEO of the county’s school sys­tem. “I think they learn so much about how the school sys­tem func­tions, how it pro­vides ed­u­ca­tional ser­vices [and] other ser­vices and op­por­tu­ni­ties as well. … It’s just an eye opener in the fact that they get to sit and not study it, but be a part of it to live it, to feel it.”

Maxwell said the one year turnover not only gives stu­dent board mem­bers a pretty heavy learning curve, but also a chance to grow pro­fes­sion­ally in both the world of pol­i­tics and ed­u­ca­tion.

“He and I are go­ing to hit the ground run­ning. I’ve al­ready com­mu­ni­cated with him about my in­ter­est in work­ing with all of our stu­dents, in mid­dle and high school, on a anti-cy­ber­bul­ly­ing cam­paign,” Board Mem­ber K. Alexan­der Wal­lace said. “[Blocker] has pledged his full sup­port for that. I ap­pre­ci­ate his con­stituency as we all do on the board. … The stu­dent pop­u­la­tion has been well rep­re­sented by our pre­vi­ous stu­dent mem­bers and I think it’s go­ing to con­tinue un­der his watch­ful lead­er­ship.”

Speak­ing of lead­er­ship, Blocker was hon­ored last year by the Prince Ge­orge’s County So­cial In­no­va­tion Fund for his out­stand­ing work in pub­lic ser­vice. The or­ga­ni­za­tion named him the youngest-ever re­cip­i­ent of the Forty Un­der 40 Award.

“I’m proud of him, he’s come a long way,” said Blocker’s grand­fa­ther, Ron­ald Blocker of Mitchel­lville. “I call him a young politi­cian. He’s open, he’s truth­ful, he’s ded­i­cated to what he wants to do and he’s com­pas­sion­ate, that’s the main thing. He just wants to help.”

Michael Blocker said he is very happy for his son and couldn’t be more proud of his growth as a man mak­ing his own de­ci­sions.

“A great day is go­ing to come in his fu­ture as long as he keeps on a straight path,” he said.

“I’m very pleased and proud and hon­ored to wit­ness this event,” said Blocker’s for­mer teacher, Va­lerie Smith who cur­rently teaches English for Speak­ers of Other Lan­guages at Port Towns Ele­men­tary in Bladens­burg. “I think he will make great con­tri­bu­tions to the board and have the in­ter­est of the stu­dents at heart.”

STAFF PHOTO BY JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES

Fam­ily and friends wit­ness Park­dale High School se­nior Juwan Blocker take an oath as the new­est Prince Ge­orge’s County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion stu­dent mem­ber while his fa­ther, Michael Blocker of Mitchel­lville, records a cell phone video of the swear­ing-in cer­e­mony Aug. 10 at the Sass­cer Ad­min­is­tra­tion Build­ing in Up­per Marl­boro. At right is Prince Ge­orge’s County Cir­cuit Court Clerk Syd­ney J. Har­ri­son lead­ing the oath.

STAFF PHO­TOS BY JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES

Juwan Blocker smiles as he holds a cer­tifi­cate com­mem­o­rat­ing his swear­ing-in cer­e­mony. He was elected last school year by mem­bers of the Prince Ge­orge’s Re­gional As­so­ci­a­tion of Stu­dent Gov­ern­ments and will rep­re­sent nearly 130,000 stu­dents in the school sys­tem. The Prince Ge­orge’s County So­cial In­no­va­tion Fund hon­ored Blocker in 2015 for his out­stand­ing work in pub­lic ser­vice at age 17, mak­ing him the youngest-ever re­cip­i­ent of the Forty Un­der 40 Award.

Prince Ge­orge’s County Cir­cuit Court Clerk Syd­ney J. Har­ri­son stands be­side Juwan Blocker as he signs a cer­tifi­cate he re­ceived from the cir­cuit court clerk’s of­fice.

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