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A lot of charter school graduates maintain a relationship with their school after they pick up their diplomas. Ja’Quita Kelley has taken that to another level.
Thirteen years after graduating from International Academy of Flint, Ja’Quita is now serving as a board member at the school. According to the Governor John Engler Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan University, which authorizes the school, Ja’Quita is one of several charter school graduates across the state who now serve on their alma mater’s school board.
A high-performing charter school that serves grades K-12, International Academy of Flint has a well-rounded curriculum that aims to prepare its graduates for college or the workforce. Ja’Quita said the school did an excellent job of preparing her for the future.
She attended the school from 2005 until her graduation in 2010. She then attended the University of Michigan-Flint, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2015 and her master’s of business administration in 2018.
I received my bachelor's degree in business administration in 2015 and became an Americorp VISTA volunteer, where I worked in the City of Flint Planning Department during the water crisis,” she said. “As a graduate student, I took part in the Kakehashi Program, also known as the Japanese Friendship Ties Program, to explore Japanese innovation and business styles in order to facilitate trainings to local businesses in my hometown.
I love how IAF taught me how to learn, regardless of the subject, she added. “My school was all about creating students with sustainable skills. The type of skills that I learned made the difference between graduating college or not."
Ja’Quita has been working in her hometown ever since, including for the Ruth Mott Foundation. When the opportunity came to join the school board at International Academy of Flint, she gladly accepted. She’s also taking every opportunity to advocate for the students and families in the community.
In February of this year, Ja’Quita had the opportunity as a parent and charter school member to take part in a roundtable discussion in Flint with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, discussing Pre-K education. Ja’Quita told the governor that as a board member at IAF, she’s helping the school focus on giving parents in the community the early education resources they need.
We offer support and services where we transition and give parents different things,” she said in a story that appeared on flintbeat.com.
The board at IAF is a diverse seven-member group that includes President Diane Thompson, Vice President Jeff Houck, Secretary Yuwonia Speights-Beaugard, Treasurer Jacob Sopczynski and trustees FaLessia Booker and Mark Childress, in addition to Ja’Quita.
Charter school board members are appointed by the authorizer (in this case, Central Michigan University) 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.
In Ja’Quita’s case, being asked to serve on the board gave her an opportunity to stay connected with her school – and help it succeed – more than a decade after she graduated.
The Governor John Engler Center for Charter Schools at CMU says that it’s aware of several other charter schools in their portfolio that have alumni on the board, including Countryside Academy in Benton Harbor, Canton Charter Academy and Eagle Crest Charter Academy in Holland.