With her final meeting as the student member of the Delaware City Schools Board of Education approaching, Mackenzie Collett said she’s grateful for the opportunity to represent the student body on the board.
Collett joined the board last summer and has attended meetings, given her input, and cast a symbolic vote for all board action taken since then.
It was during the two-week break last spring during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States when Collett learned she had been named the student board member.
Collett began her board responsibilities over the summer months, when the board was making decisions about how to return to school during the pandemic.
“I was excited for the opportunity to get to be that voice for the students,” Collett said. “It was also a little scary to move out of my comfort zone, but I was really glad I had the opportunity to be able to do that. … When it came to COVID, it wasn’t this clear unanimous yes or unanimous no. … It was definitely a heavy weight.”
Collett said she reached out to 100 students in the district during the summer months in order to properly and accurately give the school board a student’s perspective.
“I wasn’t just thinking about my perspective but the prospective from the students at Hayes,” she said.
Collett said that when school started, she wanted to have regular lunch periods where she was available for any student to talk to but said that plan was scrapped due to the pandemic, which caused Collett to use other methods to get input.
“I see five seniors all day,” Collett joked. “In terms of seeing people, it really is limited. Everything else I did online. It definitely has been unique.”
Collett said that what she did instead was contact five students from each grade at Hayes and “kind of put them on retainer.”
“I kind of went to them first and after those 20 kids, I would reach out besides that,” Collett said. “I had a lot of students reach out to me. I was really happy about that. I was excited they felt like they could share it with me.”
Collett said she appreciated the support her fellow students and the community gave her during her time on the board.
“It meant a lot,” Collett said. “After the meetings, I would rewatched them. I’d see the Facebook comments, good and bad. Always nice to see someone encouraging me or saying they appreciated what I was saying and the perspective I was bringing up. It encouraged me. It reminded me that it’s okay to not please everyone as long as I feel what I’m doing is right and I’m doing it in a polite and respectful way.”
Collett said that although she’s very confident, the feedback from board meetings could be “a little overwhelming.”
Collett, who graduated from Hayes High School at the school’s commencement ceremony on May 22, added her senior year had “definitely been interesting.”
“(Senior year was) nothing like I expected,” she said. “I really feel like (those big moments) didn’t happen, but I also don’t think it was a complete let down, either. … Very appreciative of the school for holding senior prom event and graduation.”
Collett said the smaller class sizes from the hybrid learning model also had their advantages.
“In terms of my education, I think I got a more personalized education than I ever had before,” Collett said. “I asked more questions, I got more engagement, and I got more time with my teacher. … I was still able to enjoy my time because my teachers were so understanding of the situation and made the most of it.”
Collett said she attended classes at Hayes and Columbus State University during her senior year, and the experience helped her get ready for college.
“I really do feel prepared for college,” Collett said. “Considering the circumstances, I’m very thankful for all that Delaware City Schools has done.”
Collett said she now has experience and practice creating her own schedule and pacing herself through school work.
“This year has allowed me to gain a lot of skills,” she said.
Collett will be attending the University of Cincinnati Honors College to major in political science, and she is duel enrolled in the University of Cincinnati Law School to study public interest law. Collett said she aims to have both degrees in six years.
After college, Collett added she hopes to work for The Innocence Project, Southern Poverty Law Project, or the ACLU. Her ultimate goal is to become an appellate court justice
Collett will attend her final board meeting on June 7 along with incoming student board member Katie Hejmanowski, who will be sworn in at the June 21 meeting.
“I’m so thankful for Delaware City Schools for providing students with this opportunity,” Collett said. “It’s something I wish more schools would utilize. Just the fact that they are offering it means a lot to me. I’m really thankful to the community for being patient with me.”
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.