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Board Spotlight on Shenethe Parks

Thank You For Being Such A Vital Part Of Our Team, Shenethe Parks! We Look Forward To Sharing More About You So Others Can Get To Know You Better!

Tell us a bit about your backstory and what lead you down your current life path.

I was born and raised on the Southside of Chicago as the youngest of three children from parents who migrated from Mississippi in the 1960s. I knew early on that becoming an educator was a passion of mine through role-playing as a teacher with a class filled with dolls.  As a first-generation college graduate, I was excited to begin my career as an educator.  The support of great mentors provided me with leadership experiences, which further led to my desire to make a larger impact beyond the students in my classroom. For the past 20 years, I have served as an educational administrator for Chicago Public School at the school and at a distinct level to develop leaders and support the learning environment for all students.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career?

I am inspired by the desire to make a difference. My personal educational journey and background experiences reflect the students whom I serve today. There are many educators or leadership giants that have led before me.  This, coupled with the need of building a stronger community for our students and families, inspires me to be an impact in underserved communities.  

What is one thing you are proud of achieving in your life and career?

I am most proud of my work as a Principal in which I led a school for 11 years. This was truly my passion work. I am most proud of the students and families that were impacted by strengthening an environment that was conducive to the needs of the students and families. The students were provided with learning experiences that extended beyond the walls of the classroom. I supported teachers around academic excellence, helped implement best practices to ensure students were engaged, and strived to push them to become critical thinkers. Ultimately, creating a space where students, families, and staff want to teach and learn.

What keeps you motivated? What maintains your passion for and commitment to the work you are doing?

My children and my students in the communities that I serve keep me motivated.  I lead from the inspiring words “if not you, then who; and if not now, then when?” It is a moral obligation to build a village and provide support for our students in underserved communities and provide equitable resources to close the achievement gap. In addition, I demand that schools and classrooms provide high-quality instruction that I would want for my own children.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Finding balance in my life is very important to me. Spending time with my family and friends is a critical component to striking that balance. Cooking, entertaining and traveling is truly my passion. In my most quiet moments, I enjoy dancing like nobody’s watching and listening to my favorite music playlist.

If you were granted three wishes, what would they be and why?

I would wish for peace amongst all and a place where people feel safe to be who they are without judgment. I would also wish for equity for all to provide the same opportunities for disenfranchised communities that have been underserved with limited access to resources. And finally, I would wish for high-quality school systems with a wealth of resources and programs to support the needs of the students and community. “Education is the key to unlocking the golden doors of freedom” – George Washington Carver.

Describe a time when you sought out someone else’s idea or feedback and how you incorporated that insight to yield a better result.

I firmly believe that collaboration and receiving authentic feedback is the only way to improve your practice or to reach your goals. Collaboration is critical to any organization in developing a shared vision, valuing the voice of other members and the rich discourse, and learning opportunities to reach a common goal. I implement this practice amongst my team during meetings bi-weekly and monthly with the leaders whom I support.

The road to success is difficult and requires tremendous dedication. What advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

Follow your heart and passion. You have to believe in the work that you do and it will not feel like work. It should feel more like fulfilling a dream. It is also important to set goals and timelines, and to reflect and make shifts if you are not on target. You should also surround yourself with like-minded people that will push you in your thinking to further your growth.

Why did you choose to be a Board Member of Educate. Radiate. Elevate.?

EVERY student deserves the opportunity to receive additional support. Since the pandemic, the achievement gap for students of color has widened. As a Board Member of E.R.E., I wanted to extend my support in aligning resources to families that do not have access due to financial burdens. As an educator, it is my hope to leverage my experience, background, and resources to provide additional opportunities to help students reach their academic targets.

What about Educate. Radiate. Elevate.’s Purpose, Mission, and Core Values speak most to you, and why?

The vision statement of E.R.E. resonates with me the most by providing our youth with the tools to grow into successful contributing members of society, we are making the monumental changes our world so desperately needs. I firmly believe EVERY student can learn in a nurturing environment that provides high-quality instruction and the resources to meet their individual needs. Students are often at a disadvantage due to financial constraints, and E.R.E. is supporting that effort in multiple states.

Thanks, Shenethe! We are so lucky to have you on the team!

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