By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
VINELAND â€“ Cedric Holmes made history in 2017 as the youngest person ever to serve on the Vineland Board of Education and now he wants to use that experience to inspire others and connect young people more firmly with their education decision-makers.
Holmes, a school board veteran at 23, is running for re-election for his seat on the school board in a competitive race mixed with Democrats and Republicans.
“It’s certainly been a fulfilling experience working with and for the students of Vineland Public Schools,” said Holmes, who graduated from Vineland High School in 2015. “I’ve made lifelong connections with students, staff members and community members over the last four years.
Holmes has grown in his activism and work. He serves as administrator of Union Baptist Church in Bridgeton under the guidance of influential faith leader Rev. Albert Morgan. He is also the chief of staff with the New England Missionary Baptist Convention.
Ironically, Morgan is also running for re-election to the Bridgeton Board of Education.
He is also board president of the Boys & Girls Club of Cumberland County and serves on the board of the Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA. Holmes works as property manager of Lakeshore Management as well.
On Behalf of Students
During his time with the Vineland school board, Holmes said he has learned the importance of focusing his decisions to benefit students first rather than trying to make everyone happy with his votes.
“I’ve learned that not everyone will be pleased by the decisions the board makes but as long as Iâ€™m making the decision with the studentsâ€™ interest in mind, Iâ€™m confident that Iâ€™m making the right decision,” Holmes said. “Iâ€™ve also learned to follow through with the decisions that we make to assess the impact of our votes.”
Holmes said being the youngest member of the Vineland school board the past four years had its advantages and disadvantage.
“But I used what most would view as a disadvantage to benefit the children,” Holmes said. “It helped me connect with the most important people that I serve — the students.
“Outside of our regular school board meetings I have very good relationships with my fellow board members. We’re all friends and we work well together. They believed in me and ultimately appointed me to this seat in 2017. I’m grateful for the leadership on the board and their mentorship throughout my last four years,” Holmes added.
Grappling With the Virus
The Vineland native said he has grown with his peers since then, which has helped profoundly with the school district â€“ along with school districts across the country â€“ come to grips with the coronavirus pandemic.
“Now that times arenâ€™t so good, in terms of this pandemic, I can really continue my work of making well-informed choices that benefit our students and their families,” Holmes said. “My first term was just a preview of whatâ€™s to come.”
He said one of the things he has enjoyed the most of engaging with students â€“ many of them who were in the same position Holmes was growing up.
“It has been so rewarding when I see my favorite students at Rossi, Mennies and Barse schools who always say ‘hey, that’s Mr. Holmes,'” the school board member said, who often wears a suit and tie to visit students. “They see me and theyâ€™re watching. That why I visit schools every week, thatâ€™s why I dress the way I do. So that I can prove to my generation and the older generations that the youth are about doing the good work.
“My generation is about service and class and I want to that example to our youngest and most impressionable constituents — the students. I mostly stop in lunchrooms just to talk to our kids and see how their day is going. I think thatâ€™s what was missing before I came to the board; the ‘how are YOU doing?’ Itâ€™s about the personal connection,” Holmes continued.
Holmes said the pandemic has brought on unique challenges for the school district that everyone is trying to work through.
“With the whole COVID-19 experience we donâ€™t know what the future holds,” Holmes said. “We have to continue to ensure that the quality of education we put forth is second to none. That to me is the biggest challenge every district across the USA will face in the next year or more.
“Iâ€™m concerned about the students being behind. Iâ€™m concerned about the ones that are struggling and in turn the parents who are struggling. I just want to encourage them that thereâ€™s hope in all of this, and theyâ€™re not alone,” he added.
Up until the election of Alix Silva last year, Holmes was the only person of color on the Vineland school board which now serves a large population African American and Latino students. He said he understands how important it is as a role model to portray a positive image.
“I take my responsibility seriously and wanted to be a positive role model to all of our students of color in Vineland and thatâ€™s the mindset I have today, as well,” Holmes said. “Iâ€™ve been proud to do the work of Vineland Board of Education member and Lord willing, I will continue to do the good work for another three years.
“I have recently been appointed as co-chair of a district-wide committee on diversity, including and equity and Iâ€™m looking forward to listening and learning more about how our staff members interact with their students in a culturally responsive and equitable manner. As one of only two men of color on the Vineland School Board, I am proud of what has been accomplished so and excited for what is yet to come,” Holmes said.
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