Running for the East Lansing School Board was far from an impulsive decision for Nichole Martin. The social worker, mother of two and lifelong East Lansing resident has known she would run for the Board at some point. Now, she said, is the right time.
“I always knew I would be involved at some point. I’ve spent the last couple years observing and I made my decision that now is the right time,” she said.
Her eight-year-old currently walks through the same halls that Martin did as a student at Donley Elementary School. It is also where her youngest child will start kindergarten next year. Her eldest even had the same classroom as Martin did. Those deep roots in Donley, and the District as a whole are what drives Martin to work for a better education system.
She believes her personality and work ethic will make her an asset for the Board.
“I am super collaborative in nature. I don’t believe in re-inventing the wheel,” she said. “I am a very progressive thinker and I want to keep us moving into the future.”
Martin is a familiar face to many East Lansing parents because her husband, Scott, is the Assistant Varsity Boys’ Basketball coach at East Lansing High School. She goes to many of the games and was previously the Program Coordinator of the East Lansing Soccer Club.
Professionally, Martin works with the State foster care system, assisting foster children with autism as they age out of the system to become independent and successful adults. She also works for the Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative.
Today she continues to work for the State as a Field Support Analyst, providing analyzing and providing training materials to child welfare specialists all around Michigan. She attended Carthage Collage and received degrees in criminal justice and psychology and then completed her graduate studies at the Chicago School for Professional Psychology. In Wisconsin, she worked with Boys and Girls Club and with children with autism spectrum disorders. She has more than 10 years of experience in working with children with autism spectrum disorders and worked for several years as a behavior therapist.
In Wisconsin she worked with Boys and Girls Club and with autistic children. She and her husband eventually moved to Massachusetts where she worked as a child development specialist at a residential program for residents on the autism spectrum. In 2008, they had the opportunity to return home and she began doing case management for St. Vincent Catholic Charities.
“Most of what I do is empowering kids to believe they are worth something,” she said. “It is really nice to see them change over time. Some have gone on to college, some have become parents. Their growth and development is important to me.”
With her background, she feels strongly that East Lansing needs to increase the mental health services it offers its students. She would like to see more access to mental health services at all buildings, including more full-time social workers.
Additionally, she would like the high school to offer more options of vocational training, mentorships and internships for those students who aren’t failing but aren’t excelling academically.
“It’s those students that are not at risk but not above-and-beyond either. They don’t get one anyone’s radar,” she said. “We need to pay attention to their needs too.”
She believes diversity is a great asset of East Lansing schools and should be celebrated in all buildings. She supports increasing access to English as a Second Language programs at all schools. She also believes that the Board needs to make its decisions collaboratively with the teaching staff.
“The teachers here are amazing. We have to value their input,” she said.
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