The start of a new school year can be a special time for students. It brings new classes, new teachers, and the opportunity for a clean slate and a chance to write a new story or take a new direction.

My involvement with my local schools includes being asked by administrators to mentor students in need. Before the start of this school year, the administrator at our high school asked me to meet and mentor a young lady who had just registered for this school year.

When I walked into the conference room for our initial meeting, I greeted a teenager of 16 seated next to her older cousin, who was a senior at the high school. The younger student had left the school a year earlier and was now happily returning. She was particularly excited to get her schedule and meet her school counselor.

Both girls exuded energy and excitement. Time stood still as the three of us chatted about the possibilities and opportunities of the upcoming school year.

After some time, amidst the talking over each other, the giggles, and glowing faces, I heard a sweet little cry. I jumped, startled. With a big smile, the young lady looked down and picked up her newborn who had been asleep in her carrier on the floor.

Then, the story came out — the reason the administrator sent her to me to mentor and the full complexity of her situation. And while this young lady’s story is challenging, here she was, smiling and hopeful about going back to school and getting back on track with her education.

She talked to me about how school was her safe place, her escape, but mostly, how it was her opportunity to learn and grow and to make a life and a future for her and her baby.

Her words brought a new clarity to my day and made me think about the impact public schools can have on students. It reminded me about why we, as school board members and school leaders across America, do what we do. How we work hard to make our schools everything they can be to meet the needs of every one of our students.

This was not a sad meeting in the conference room. And this isn’t a sad story, with a sad ending. Like the start of the new school year, this was a new beginning for this one student.

We don’t always know the hardships and burdens students carry when they come into our schools each day. Some of their burdens are unfathomable to us. But we provide the resources, the leadership, and the policies so that they’ll have the opportunities and tools they need and deserve to be successful.

If we as board members, along with our teachers and staff, can make a difference to JUST ONE child, we make a difference to generations.

Thank you for your leadership and service to every student.

Have a great school year.

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