UPPER MARLBORO – Summer is almost over. School is about to start up again, and with a new school year comes the swearing in of a new student member on the Prince George’s County Board of Education.
Juwan Blocker, a rising senior at Parkdale High School, officially took his oath on Aug. 9 before a packed house in the board chambers inside the Sasscer Administration Building in Upper Marlboro.
“I think it is fantastic that students have an opportunity to serve on the board of education. I think they learn so much about how the school system functions,” said Kevin Maxwell, chief executive officer of Prince George’s County Public Schools. “I think it’s great. The one year turnover gives them a pretty heavy learning curve, but I think that it’s just a wonderful opportunity for them.”
Blocker was well represented at the ceremony as family, Parkdale staff and supporters surrounded him while he took his oath. Even a Maryland delegate and city council members attended the ceremony.
Blocker said it was amazing to have such a great support system turn out for him.
“It felt good,” he said. “You know, it takes a village. You know, we hear that all the time, some call it corny, but it really takes a village.”
With so many there to support him, it took Blocker nearly 45 minutes just to get through photographs, handshakes and hugs. He said he credits much of his growth to his teachers and advisors, who helped him think outside of himself and outside of the small area he lives in.
Before turning to politics, Blocker was a spoken-word poet. He said without the guidance of a few “great men,” he wouldn’t be where he is today.
“I credit God, of course, my parents, my family, but Neville Adams – he has been instrumental in my life,” Blocker said.
SMOB 02When Blocker took the oath of office last week, it put an exclamation point on a two-year journey to become the student member of the board position. This was the second year he had run for the office, but when he lost the race to Ava Perry in 2015 he was not discouraged.
Blocker said there are a lot of people who would have stopped when they lost, but he was not one to give up, and he had a mission. He wanted to get to the board of education because he feels he has a lot to do for the students in Prince George’s County.
“I told the students when I was campaigning the first time that, no matter what happens in the first election, I will be back and I will be fighting for the students,” Blocker said.
He said he thinks he did a good job keeping that promise and with keeping such a big promise comes great pressure. But, Blocker said there is pressure in everything and he will take it in stride.
“At the end of the day, as long as I remember that I am there for the students, and only the students, I think I’ll be fine,” he said.
This year the board will take on a wide array of topics including the chief executive officer’s contract, continued capital and maintenance projects, implementation of ongoing projects and policies and, of course, the budgeting process.
Blocker faces many decisions going into this school year, but said he is not going to do it on his own. One of his biggest ambitions is to create a Student Member of the Board (SMOB) Advisory Council, where he will pull together students from all over the county to research issues prevalent to students.
“I want more students involved and engaged in school board decisions,” Blocker said. “And I also want more students involved period. I think that’s very important.”
He also wants to create a school-police initiative to have the local law enforcement and school resource officers interact with students on a more frequent basis. Both ideas are still being developed, Blocker said, but are projects he is passionate about.
Board member Edward Burroughs III, who said Blocker is like family, said the student member will take away a great amount of knowledge from this experience on the board. And he would know, since he held the student board position twice.
“This experience will benefit him for the rest of his life, no doubt,” Burroughs said. “I wouldn’t be where I am if I hadn’t had the same experience.”
Burroughs said he has had many conversations with Blocker about his upcoming service to the board and his biggest piece of advice was “vote your conscience no matter what.”
“When I look at Juwan, I’m reminded that our young people are talented, capable and our county is in good hands,” he said.