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2-term Decatur student ambassador heads for college
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2-term Decatur student ambassador heads for college

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DECATUR — When the student ambassadors program was implemented in 2018, the idea was that high school students would sit in on Decatur Board of Education meetings and offer their perspective on issues that came up.

The first four students — Jacob Hamm and Alison McCrady from MacArthur High School, Kyaria Cotton and Londarius Hayes from Eisenhower — were welcome to attend any or all meetings, though they couldn't vote and they couldn't attend closed executive sessions.

Hayes, a 2020 graduate, has been to every meeting, and is the only ambassador to serve two years. A young man of many talents, he is also an all-state musician. 

“I wanted to be a student ambassador because I felt there was a lack of students' voices within the school board and felt like I could be that person to communicate the student voice to the board,” said Hayes, who will attend the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign in the fall. He plans to study architecture and business and plans to seek a master's degree, with the dream of opening his own architecture firm one day.

School board President Beth Nolan said the student ambassador program was discussed for several years before it began in 2018 and it has worked just the way she hoped it would.

“We are able to ask the student ambassadors direct questions when administration brings recommendations and discussion items,” she said. “They articulate how this could impact their student experience, and they also challenge us with questions to think about the topics of conversation from their perspective. Especially this past year, they have had a front seat view of the challenges that face boards and how elected leaders are held accountable by the community.”

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Hayes, in particular, she said, has proven to be a valuable asset to the board.

“Londarius, more than any other student ambassador, has challenged us to think differently,” Nolan said. “From day one, he has not been shy about asking questions that make us pause to consider the student voice, and make us reflect whether the decision being made is truly in the best interest of our students. I was immediately impressed with his moxy and ambition. He sits quietly listening to the conversation, but will then softly ask a thoughtful question about a complex topic that challenges all of us to think a little differently, and dive a little deeper. The goals he has for himself are lofty and impressive, and that has motivated me as a board member to make sure we are providing a strong foundation so he can achieve them.”

When he first began in the position, Hayes said, he didn't study the board packet as closely as he learned to along the way. He and the other student ambassadors held their own meetings before board meetings, to discuss issues and what points they wanted to make to the board. He said he learned that some things take time to work through, and the board has to take that time to avoid hasty decisions without thorough study.

“Personally, I've become more well-rounded,” Hayes said. “I'm able to communicate and vocalize my thoughts more openly and improved my thinking process. I became a more complex thinker and I've gained much more knowledge than I had prior to this experience.”

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Decatur high school activities through the years

Contact Valerie Wells at (217) 421-7982. Follow her on Twitter: @modgirlreporter

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