CHAMPAIGN — For Unit 4 school board hopeful Alissia Young, education is all about the family.
From her day job at the University of Illinois' childcare resource service department, to her evening and weekend work leading bible studies, to her home life, Young believes it's essential for parents and families to be involved in every aspect of their child's education.
Family participation is just one of platforms the lifelong Champaign resident is centering her Unit 4 school board campaign on.
"There's an old African proverb that says 'It takes a village to raise a child' and that is just so, so true," she said. "I want to make sure parents and families feel encouraged to get involved in their child's education. I know there are a lot out there who already are, and I applaud them, but it's so important that families and schools work together. It takes all of us pitching in."
Young believes it is not only important for parents to be a part of their kids' school life; it's equally important that open communication exist between all parties involved in rearing a child.
"My main goal is to foster an environment of better communication between parents, the community, our children — because they have a voice as well — and the staff at our schools," she said. "We've got to make sure there is transparency among all these parties," she said. "I know a lot of people get nervous to speak in front of the board at meetings, so if we could create an environment that's comfortable and let's us keep an open dialogue going, that's at the top of my list."
Young is no stranger to Unit 4. All three of her children graduated from Central High School. She regularly attends board meetings (even though her youngest has been out of the school district for almost four years). She applied for an open seat on the board in the spring of 2012, when Ileana Saveley was ultimately chosen.
Although her children are out of high school, Young has stayed up-to-date with the conversation surrounding the fate of Central because she feels invested in the school that brought her kids their education. With the state the current Central is in, she believes "we are doing our kids a disservice expecting them to learn in some of the conditions at that school."
Young supports the school board's most recent $144 million proposal because it includes additional facilities. She's also in favor of the district's recent efforts to bring Dodds Park back to the table.
"I am extremely pleased that Dr. Howard has been added to the list of schools to be rebuilt because I had an opportunity to tour the building and agree that it needs to be accessible for the physically challenged and a 21st century elementary school for the children in our community," she said. "I think the current school board has worked very hard on this issue, has done quite well at making sure voices of the community are being heard and am delighted that the new site of Dodds Park is now on the table."
Young says her commitment to Champaign schools stretches beyond her children's time in the district; rather, she wants to help all current and future parents and their students receive an equitable education.
"There are lots of children that are not on the same level as other students who may need extra support because they have certain obstacles to overcome, so I think it should be a priority for the school board to do whatever it can to help those children and families out. I'd like to be a part of that," she said. "I want to make sure that not only curriculum and instruction in class is equitable, but also make sure discipline is fair across all races so that everybody is treated fairly."
Young has interest in helping expand after-school and tutoring programs, which she says will not only keep kids out of trouble, but also help the schools further "wrap around kids and their families in support."
As an African-American mother, Young says, she has a unique perspective to offer the board and she wants to do everything she can to promote safety and equality, both inside and outside school.
"I'm one of those folks who believes in not just talking about issues, but getting involved and not just sitting by the wayside, but actually being a part of the solution," she said. "That's really what prompted me to run.
"I want to get busy and I want to be helpful because I expect this next generation to do the same thing."