COVINGTON -- A lifelong Newton County resident and parent of two children in the Newton County School System wants to join the Newton County Board of Education as an advocate for children.
During qualifying week last month, Shakila Henderson-Baker, 32, qualified on the Democratic ticket for the District 3 seat, which is held by Cathy Dobbs, who is not seeking re-election.
"I truly believe in giving back to the community," said Baker, who works as a mental health clinician for the Gwinnett Rockdale Newton division of Mental Health. "I've always known I wanted to run (for the school board)."
She also serves as a case worker to students at Eastside High School under the Youth Workforce Investment Act, which provides academic and employability skills to those age 14 to 21. For the past four years, she has volunteered as a teen coordinator at Washington Street Community Center and also serves as an after-school tutor there for kindergartners through ninth-graders.
"I'm not someone who sits at meetings and hears what is going on in our community and our school system," she said in a statement. "I'm someone you see first-hand working with the children of our school system, from elementary to high, and talking to the parents about their needs to help them receive a quality education."
She also volunteers at her children's schools -- Palmer Stone Elementary and Fairview parent-involvement theme school -- where she is a representative on the school council and program coordinator for the Student of the Month program.
"My husband (Rodrick) and I find ways to make being a part of our children's education a must," she said. "Children become victims of adult decisions, and I don't want to see kids with potential get taken advantage of."
If elected, she plans to focus on budget cuts and seeking advice from the community, as well as focusing on educating the children of this generation, providing assistance to all types of students.
Baker, a 1996 graduate of Newton High School, holds a bachelor's degree in political science from Fort Valley State University, where she graduated cum laude, and a master's degree in counseling and psychology from Troy State University. She also has taken some early childhood education courses at Piedmont College.
"With a background in the counseling and mental health profession, and in a position where I work with people with disabilities, I am aware of the needs of children with disabilities and the long-term effects that cuts in these areas will have on them," she said. "I understand that all school systems statewide are struggling with funds, so, in my opinion, we all need to work together and find solutions that will benefits the students, parents and teachers in the Newton County Community. ... Put simply, I am fighting for an education for this generation."
Baker, the daughter of Donald and Sallie Henderson, is a member of St. Paul AME Church in Covington, where she works in the youth department. She has never held an elected office.
Her Web site is www.henderson-baker.com.
In addition to the District 3 seat, Johnny Smith's District 1 and C.C. Bates' District 5 seats are up for re-election this year on the Newton County Board of Education.