Rhonnie Brewer, Candidate for Shelby County School Board

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As we continue to build momentum around this year's general election on August 2nd, we would like to continue highlighting the new faces and brave souls who are taking a huge step into the political arena and throwing their name in the hat to become part of our school board in Shelby County.

The Shelby County Board of Education governs the business operations of Shelby County Schools and is comprised of nine  elected board members representing all districts in Shelby County. Through its governance, the Shelby County Board of Education is committed to its mission of preparing all students for success in learning, leadership, and life.

I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to share moments with some of the new faces we're seeing and I’m delighted to share some awareness around who these individuals are and what they have to share and offer the families of Shelby County.

Among the newer faces running for this year's election is Mrs. Rhonnie Brewer. Again, this is not an official endorsement blog. Rather an opportunity to present to this city one of the candidates for the commissioner race, but more than that, someone that's willing to take a stand and possibly serve in a greater capacity the families of Shelby County.

Rhonnie Brewer, Candidate for Shelby County School Board, is a community-minded professional who has a passion for building strong relationships within the Memphis metropolitan area. As President of the Guild at the Memphis Urban League, she focuses on driving the goals of the league, in order to support its initiative of empowering the community. She is also the Chief Visionary Officer of Socially Twisted a boutique firm focused on social change and community relations and founder of Memphis Startup, a startup support organization providing resources and support to the small business and technology ecosystems in Memphis, bringing together people and resources in an interconnected network of education and entrepreneurship.

She also has years of experience in event planning, leadership, and community relations through her commitments in various organizations such as Memphis Urban League Young Professionals, COPPER (Coalition for Organizing and Protecting People’s Equal Rights), Memphis Entrepreneur Academy, Community Shares, and several other organizations. Rhonnie is also a member of the National Coalition of Black Women and a Fellow of the Leadership Memphis Executive Class. Rhonnie also attended the Women's Campaign School at Yale University and recently announced her candidacy for Shelby County School Board, District 9.

Rhonnie is a community activist who has coined hashtag #Socialite4SocialChange because of her passion for social justice, education, community involvement, and civic engagement. In addition to her many endeavors, Rhonnie also co-hosts the "What’s Happening Myron Show", a local radio show about news, current events, and entertainment on 88.5 FM, The Voice of Shelby County Schools.

Below is my interview with Mrs. Brewer:

1. What is the inspiration behind your running for School Board Commissioner?

When my oldest daughter was in high school. I had a startling realization. We had created a college "cattle call." We sold our children a narrative that they were either "college bound"or they would be a failure. The truth is that there are many paths to success and our children deserve to be exposed to the options that are available to them. Whether they choose to learn a skilled trade, attend college, join the military, or even try their hand at entrepreneurship, they should have access.

2. Describe your district (ethnic makeup, populations, neighborhoods, income level, etc.) The district is very diverse it encompasses the historic Orange Mound Community, parts of Hickory Hill, East Memphis and a bit of the area around the University of Memphis. It is a melting pot of ethnic backgrounds and income levels.

3. What is your platform? My platform is built on three things: Quality Education, Skilled Job Opportunities, and Entrepreneurship.

Quality Education - I am dedicated and committed to serving the children of District 9. I believe all students should have the same quality of education regardless of zip code.

Skilled Job Opportunities - Over the last three years, I  have secured apprenticeship opportunities through Apprenticeship Fairs, most notably for high school seniors, who may not be college bound.

Entrepreneurship -  Over the past four years, I have led classes in entrepreneurship. I truly believe our youth have the capacity to venture beyond the lemonade stand.

4. How has the support been around you running for public office? There has been a tremendous amount of support around me running for office. I am motivated everyday by the people who believe in me and believe that I can help shape a better future for our students.

5. What are ways in which the public can help your particular efforts? Tell a friend! For years, I have encouraged people to have a "vote buddy" someone that holds you accountable when it is time to vote. We all get very busy in our lives and sometimes voting can seem like just one more thing to add to the "to do" list. Having a vote buddy, helps ensure you both make it to the polls. My hope is when you get there, you will both vote for me! Besides that, we can always use volunteers on the campaign and all are welcome.

6. Besides winning the election and serving as Board Commissioner, what other ways  (in the near future) are you planning to serve the community and the constituents of Shelby County? Currently, I am advocating to restore food security in our communities. Across the city, we have suffered from food deserts. This puts the most vulnerable of our community in jeopardy. There is a direct connection between hunger and educational performance. Additionally, I have hosted apprenticeship fairs for three years to help connect people to skilled-job opportunities. I also host an annual basketball camp called D.U.N.K. (Developing Urban Neighborhoods & Kids) Camp. We work with students to teach them not only basketball, but conflict resolution, volunteerism, civic engagement, and many other life skills.

7. Give a fun fact? Or something the public wouldn't know about you that you don't mind sharing? I am a huge sci-fi geek! I can watch hours of Doctor Who and recently fell in love with the new Lost In Space. Super heroes movies are top of my list! #WakandaForever!

8. What are some of the biggest challenges facing our district today? One of the issues that I have really been looking into is professional development. We have rolled out several new initiatives, programs, and even a new curriculum. As I visit schools throughout the district, the biggest concerns of administrators and educators alike is what they feel is the lack of professional development and training they received prior to these roll outs. This is alarming to me because they are the front line. If they are not comfortable with it, how do they effectively transfer this knowledge to students, staff, etc.?

Another major concern for me is uniformity, we must work to provide a uniform/consistent education across the board. Third grade in one school should reflect third grade in another. If a child has to move during the school year, they should be able to walk into their new classroom and pick up right where they left off.

And, we must address the "elephant in the room," TN Ready! We must continue to advocate on behalf of our students. In its current state, this is an unfair assessment of our students and does not provide a fair and balanced reflection of their capabilities. And, let’s face it, it’s time for a new solution.

9. What should the public know and understand about the role of Board Commissioner? The job of a Board Commissioner is to set policy and vision for the direction of the school board.

10. Tell us a little bit about yourself- Born and raised? Anything personal testament or journey? Schools attended? Etc. I am a native of South Central Los Angeles, however, I consider myself a "Memphian by Choice." I love this city and its citizens.

11. Any final thoughts?

Every child has a pathway to success, it is our job to help them at the fork in the road!

Thank you Mrs. Brewer for your time and contributions. We wish you much success in the upcoming election and future endeavors.

Don't forget: General Election. August 2nd

Make your voice count. Get out and vote.