When Ana Johnson started at Countryside Academy in Benton Harbor in 2005, she admitted that she wasn’t the best student.
When I first came to Countryside I wasn’t the best behaved or academically advanced student,” Ana said. “I struggled, but the staff always supported me even when I found myself in front of the board.”
Attending the charter school in Benton Harbor turned her academic life around. She started excelling in school and graduated in 2011. Ana became more involved in the community and currently works as a clinical research associate at Spectrum Health in Benton Harbor.
A dozen years after graduating from Countryside Academy, her alma mater had an opening on the school board. She applied and was appointed to the position by Central Michigan University, the school’s authorizer.
Ana is now one of a handful of people around the state who are serving on a charter school board at the school school they graduated from. As the officials at the John Engler Center for Charter Schools at CMU point out, that’s a special level of dedication.
I decided to serve on the board because I wanted to give back to the school that gave so much to me,” Ana said. “Serving on the board will allow me the opportunity to support the staff that supported me. Plus I get to represent the Hispanic community that is continuously growing in our area. It has been an interesting experience and one that I wish to continue. I hope through experience I am able to learn and make a bigger contribution!”
Charter school board members are appointed by the authorizer and perform an important function to help assure the success of the school. A charter school board is responsible for setting policy, directing operational and academic performance and ensuring financial stability.
Charter school boards are public boards in every way. Their meetings are open to the public and all agendas and meeting minutes are available online.
True to its name, Countryside Academy is located in the countryside about three miles east of downtown Benton Harbor. The school is located on a 98-acre piece of land that includes woods, ponds, streams, gardens and a greenhouse. Countryside has a very diverse student body and a curriculum that stresses agriculture, the environment and sustainable living.
Ana said it was the perfect fit for her as a student.
There are many aspects that make Countryside special but the number one thing to me would be the teachers,” Ana said. “They have such a dedicated staff overall!”
Ana said that as a board member, she’ll also be able to advocate for charter schools in general and the right of parents and families to have quality school options.
It’s important to have different options in regards to education,” she said. “Not all students are interested in the same studies or thrive in the same environment. Families should have the option to make the right choice for their kids.”