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Learning the ropes
Board gives real-world lessons in cooperation
As a student member of the Martinsville School Board, Marnié Martin, 17, said she has learned about the often slow, involved process of government. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Thursday, February 27, 2014
By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer
Marnié Martin has learned some things about politics and government serving as a student representative on the Martinsville School Board and as junior class president and now senior class president at Martinsville High School.
Marnié (pronounced Mar-nay) said, for example, she has learned to seek many and varied opinions from her classmates on various issues.
“You can’t just want something because it’s best for you. You have to want something because it’s best for everybody as a whole,” she said.
Martin, 17, said she has learned about the often slow, involved process of government. Just because she and other students would like the school board to take a certain action doesn’t mean that it will happen quickly, or at all, she said.
She added she has learned there is a deliberative process by which the board considers issues and policies and makes decisions.
Sometimes MHS students will ask her why the school board hasn’t done such and such about an issue, but she tells them all she can do is express her opinion to the board, she said. The two student representatives (now officially called liaisons) on the Martinsville School Board do not vote. Marnié is in her second year in the position.
Serving on the board “keeps me informed about what’s going on, and I can keep students informed as well,” she said.
For example, a recent report given by schools Superintendent Pam Heath on inclement weather makeup day regulations cleared up some student misconceptions, Marnié said.
After the school board meeting, Marnié, in turn, was able to pass on that information to students, as well as the announced and potential makeup days mentioned at the board meeting.
Marnié said she has learned the school board’s role in the school division is much more extensive than she had thought and that the superintendent doesn’t decide practically everything by herself.
Marnié has attended conferences of the Virginia School Boards Association, where she has received training and met with student school board representatives from other school divisions. Some of those school divisions have several high schools and operate differently than Martinsville City Public Schools, which has one high school, she said.
She said she enjoys serving on the school board and could not think of anything she doesn’t like about her role. “I love the people on the school board,” she said, adding they are helpful and answer her questions.
One of the most challenging parts of serving on the school board is if she can’t answer every single question students may ask about what took place at board meetings, Marnié said. Another challenge is when adult school board members ask her questions during board meetings without telling her in advance, she said. “I have to be prepared.”
Another challenge is that students may not understand that school board business can be a long process, she said. She added some students seem to think that “if I ask, it will be done the next day.”
She said she has learned about patience and the importance of listening, considering consequences and give and take.
Before, she said, “I thought it was so simple: Ask and it will be done.”
One of the key projects Marnié is working on as senior class president is to get permission to have an outdoor graduation, rather than in the school auditorium. She said she and other students feel that their class should be allowed to break tradition because they think their class has not received some of the privileges some other classes received, such as a college-visit trip and a commitment-to-graduate banner, and because more guests would be able to attend an outdoor graduation.
Marnié also has learned about some of the realities of running for office. She said a friend of hers also ran for senior class president when she ran. It was a vigorous campaign, she said, but they still are friends.
Marnié said she had wanted to be senior class president since she was a little girl, following in the footsteps of her mother, Army Maj. Bonnie Martin, who was president of her senior class. Marnié’s father is Marvin Martin Sr., who retired as an Army master sergeant.
Marnié said she has lived in Axton all her life, except during her middle school years, when she lived in Springfield, Va., and six months during her sophomore year when she lived in Honolulu, Hawaii — both moves because of her mother’s Army assignments.
Marnié’s other activities at Martinsville High School include: cheerleader (football and basketball); co-historian of Health Occupations Students of America; membership chairman of the school Rotary Club; and member of Future Business Leaders of America, National Society of Black Engineers, CHILL (Communities Helping Improve Local Lives) and the National Honor Society. She has been invited to become a member of the National Society of High School Scholars, she said.
She is a member of Bethel United Way of the Cross Church in Danville, which was founded by her maternal grandfather, Bishop Joseph H. Adams, who served on the Henry County School Board. She also is a member of the church’s dance ministry team.
Marnié has a 3.6 grade point average and has been awarded a $40,000 scholarship ($10,000 a year) to Hampton University to study pre-pharmacy. She aspires to become a pharmacist.
“I always wanted to do something to help people, but I am not fond of blood and needles. I like science and math,” she said, adding that she thought pharmacy would be a good fit.
“People will always need medicine,” Marnié said.
Asked to describe her personality and drive, she said: “I try to be outgoing. I like to try new things, come out of my comfort zone. I try to be friendly and talk to everybody. I don’t like to see people sitting alone by themselves.”
Marnié said her parents taught her at a young age: “Never give up. You can achieve whatever you want to if you put your mind to it. That’s how I got to be where I am — putting my family and God first in everything I do.”