Lauren Gearhart: A commitment to listening to diverse perspectives
Summit School District candidate
- Occupation: Summit County government Mountain Mentors coordinator
- Hometown: Bowling Green, Ohio
- Years in Summit County: 10
- Civic involvement: Healthy Futures Initiative coalition member, Communities that Care coalition member, Positive Youth Development trainer, Mountain Mentors volunteer
I am running for the Summit School District Board of Education in order to support our young people reach their full potential. I want to provide experiential learning opportunities with room for failure. Whose most memorable lessons didn’t come from our biggest failures? I want to foster authentic relationships peer to peer as well as connect youths to positive adult role models. Most of all, I want our youths to enjoy life. Academic achievement can’t happen if basic needs aren’t met. Along with safety and sense of belonging, mental health support is also a basic need.
I have been teaching, mentoring and coaching Summit County youths for the past 10 years. I started out by coaching gymnastics and freestyle sports. Moving on to work for the School Based Health Center at Summit High School, I had the opportunity to present on various health topics in multiple classrooms.
With Summit County Youth and Family Services, I have been given the opportunity to teach classes at Summit Middle School and Summit High School focusing on health and peer-to-peer relationships. Outside of the classroom, I also spend time with students at the Summit County Teen Center, The Drop. In addition, I sit on the youth involvement committee through the Communities that Care coalition. I also have the privilege of facilitating Positive Youth Development trainings along with students from the Youth Empowerment Society of Summit. I have presented at various parent education seminars at the middle and high school focusing on health and communication.
I earned my master’s degree in public health from University of Toledo with a focus in education. I take pride in role modeling healthy lifestyle behaviors throughout the community by prioritizing outdoor recreation and meaningful social engagement. My main reasons for running for school board are increasing teacher wages, improving social and emotional therapy and learning, and increasing community connectedness.
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My first priority is to increase teacher wages.
Our teachers are not only responsible for lesson planning and implementation, often times their scope of work is much further reaching — social workers, mentors, advocates, this list goes on and on. So do the hours, many unfortunately without compensation. It is time we acknowledge everything that teachers do for our students, our communities and our futures by paying them competitive wages to be able to live in Summit County. I support ballot Measure 4A and Proposition CC to ensure increasing teacher wages is a top district priority.
My second priority is increasing access to mental health care.
Increasing capacity for therapeutic intervention as well as teaching our students to be caring learners is paramount in reducing bullying, low self-esteem and suicidal ideation. Support for social and emotional growth early on will allow our students to express compassion and empathy toward a diverse student body. Once young minds are clear of stress, conflict and trauma, they can then focus on academic achievement.
My third priority is to build community connectedness.
For such a small community, there are large distances between neighborhoods and families. Summit School District can bridge these gaps and create a greater sense of community attachment by providing more parent and family events and trainings. Communication must be comprehensive and accurate in all languages and cultures represented in the schools. This means increasing translation and interpretation services. Partnering with local employers and industries to teach tech and trade courses can also bridge classroom learning to local employment opportunities while reducing the strain of our low unemployment rate.
In order to accomplish these priorities, I promise to listen. There are many things I don’t know about Summit School District. I have worked with teachers, support staff, administration, coaches, board members, parents and student, but I have not heard every voice. There are many things I have yet to learn. I promise to use my critical thinking skills after hearing diverse perspectives in order to inform the decision-making process. I do not have the perspective of raising my own children, only my experiences engaging with our children, as this takes a village.
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