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Board Member’s Bywords: Grit, Growth and Giving Back

Putting ‘A Passion for Education’ to Work for Students

If Kentwood Public Schools Board of Education Vice President Allen Young was standing in front of a classroom, he would tell students to never give up. He would tell them to usethe “Kentwood grit” for which the the district is known, and which he himself has used plenty of.

“I would love for them, whatever dream they have, to make sure they follow it,” said Young, a board member since 2012. “I would have to be really honest with them because I would have to tell them that life brings about changes. There are going to be hills and valleys and curves in the road, but stick to it.”

Kentwood is all about the growth mindset, meaning that people can get smarter through hard work and practice, he said. “Keep exercising that brain. Don’t let it go soft, and also don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

Young, a maintenance coordinator for Linc Up, a community development organization in Kent County, grew up in Arkansas. He remembers being an average student who struggled in some classes. “I had to throw in a little extra grit,” he said.

But his goal was to graduate with honors, which he did in 1973, and enrolled in a trade school. He then worked in the metal distribution industry for many years before working in maintenance.

‘There are going to be hills and valleys and curves in the road, but stick to it.’ — Allen Young, Kentwood school board member

He and his wife, Johngerlyn Young, have one son, Austin, a 2014 East Kentwood graduate and now a sophomore at Morehouse College, in Atlanta.

For Young, serving on the board has always been about giving back. “I’ve always had the desire to help. I followed my son all the way from kindergarten through graduation, so I have a passion for education and for young people to improve themselves.”

He said the biggest challenge of the job, which requires about 10 hours of work per week, is dealing with the limits of the budget.

“You want to try to not cut anything, but sometimes you have to do that. We try not to do it so it’s going to be a detriment to the students. It can be painstaking.”

Boards of education are the frontline for parents and community members to address issues they feel strongly about. Young said he’s happy they come to him. “I don’t really accept those as complaints,” he insisted. “I accept them as concerns.”

When asked how much the stipend for board members is, Young had to ask a fellow board member. “I didn’t have a clue!” he said about the $40 per meeting rate.

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers and On-the-Town Magazine. She has been covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2013. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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