“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”
― Anaïs Nin
My name is Gary Hardie; I am in my fifth year serving my community on the Lynwood Unified School District Board of Education. I will be blogging here at One Public Education and I am thankful to have this platform to lift important conversations relating to public education in and around Los Angeles higher as well as sharing my perspective. First, I would like to share a little about my story, as I will do as often as it relates to the content I will be blogging about.
I am a proud product of Lynwood, California, a culturally rich community consisting of predominantly African-Americans and Latinos just southeast of Los Angeles,. I have called Lynwood home my entire life and credit it for making me the man I am today. While there are many elements in our communities that can be seen as barriers to success, I credit South Los Angeles for my grit and resilience. Growing up in Lynwood, I often faced the challenge of an under-resourced community, disenfranchisement and apathy. While it was these obstacles that often put me behind in comparison to many of my counterparts from more affluent communities, the experience allowed me to gain awareness of the need for stronger leadership, which led me to committing myself to being a public servant. I have dedicated my life to building strong individuals and leading by example, to further promote the broader vision of community building and goals of society.
I am a passionate, bold, hard-working and community-oriented public servant. I have over ten years of experience working and volunteering in public and charter school settings along with over six years of work experience in the private sector that includes management, public relations, marketing and administration. My experience in both the private and public sectors as well as my vision for change and continuous community involvement made me a highly sought after candidate which ultimately lead to my appointment to the Lynwood Board of Education followed by an appointment to the Personnel Commission for the city of Lynwood. In 2015, I had the honor of being elected to the Lynwood Board of Education, where I represent the community who looked after me as a student. I have emerged as a prominent figure and I am regarded as a trusted advisor and resourceful problem solver both with my colleagues and among the people I lead and serve.
In addition to my role as a School Board Member, my vision to affect real change and education reform in the community that I grew up in has led me to create The Village Project. This project centers around an initiative to centralize resources, provide pathways of opportunities and create a network of support to allow youth to reach their full potential and broaden their horizons. In collaboration with the City, I have developed an advisory team varying from community members, business members, professional mentors and elected leaders to ensure that we can provide our youth the appropriate guidance and support via mentorship, leadership development and networking, which will ultimately garner them opportunities to fulfill their goals. I am fully committed to using any and all connections and resources afforded to me to propel my community forward. The Village Project further resembles what I hope to be a part of in ensure the educational excellence of all students.
My dedication to education and community stems from my upbringing. Most children sat in front of birthday cakes and made wishes of a new bike or toy. When I was a child, my wishes were for a better life, some form of relief from the harshness of life that my family and I were subjected to.
I am the youngest of five children that my mother raised on her own. I credit my mother for my toughness, faith and commitment to education. When times were hard, my mother taught my siblings and I to make the best of what we had, keep our heads high, clothes ironed and clean. She taught preschool and devoted time at our church where we attended every service and event. But what taught me the most about her is what I model today as I tagged along with her as she went to provide support and counseling for domestic abuse survivors like herself, pulling from her experiences with my father who was an abusive drug-addict.
The last contact I had with my father as a child left an open wound, for which Washington Elementary School in Lynwood, California was a balm. No matter how harsh life was at home, school was always my oasis and where I was at my best. Seeing that and not fully knowing what I was dealing with at home, my teachers and other community member pushed me, gave me opportunities and put me in position realize my potential to be great.
As I have flashbacks of my childhood, I realize the fact that the misfortunes I was afforded were not anomalous and in most cases, my success was. It has long been my goal to reverse that reality to make more stories like mine the norm. It should be the norm for men in the community to be surrogate fathers to youth in their community growing up without their own. It should be the norm that community members recognize and cultivate greatness in our youth and put them in position to take advantage of the opportunities that will allow them to recognize their power, abilities and potential for success. It should be the norm that schools are an oasis for students who, like me, go home to face unimaginable struggles and battles.
The fact that people are impressed with what I have overcome and what I have grown to become is bothersome for me, leading me to believe the opportunities and support system I had is far too rare. In my mind, I have not done any more than what I was supposed to do, what I was born to do, be great. My greatness is an inevitability that I was made aware of because of the community I grew up in and the schools I attended, my village. My goal in life and in being a leader in my community is that every student whose life I have an impact on is afforded this awareness as well; to make the educational excellence of all students a reality in spite of any obstacles their community or home life affords them by building a village around them that supports their success, growth and excellence while showing them the importance of reaching back to do the same. In endeavoring to make this a reality, I write to share my story, ideas, passions and observations.
As our country enters a new era of leadership, it is vital that communities like Lynwood and the often most disenfranchised members of our communities control the narrative and become engaged in endeavors to educate and empower our youth, engage all stakeholders, hold leadership accountable to the needs of the communities they serve and reform the various institutions that are vital to our collective success. With a deluge of so much information and misinformation, it is more paramount than ever that those of us who are on the front lines, are doing the work and know the truth speak truth to power, the people.
Gary Hardie, Jr.