Parkdale senior sworn in as new student BOE member
Board, school system welcomes Blocker
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.”
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.
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.