Thursday, October 19, 2017

Student to take spot
on state school board
LINDA CONNER LAMBECK lclambeck@ctpost.com The state Board of Education's newest member is a world traveler who cares deeply about urban education, dreams of attending Yale and works part time at Banana Republic in Fairfield. Edna Chukwurah, 17, is a senior at Central High School in Bridgeport. "I think I bring to the table a lot of the urban school issues that are not really spoken about," said Chukwurah, one of two students notified by the governor's office that they will spend the next year as a nonvoting member of the board. The other is Sloan W. Danenhower, of Old Lyme. Both received letters signed by Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who will appoint them to replace the two graduating student members of the state school board. The youngest of four daughters, Chukwurah was born in Bridgeport but has visited her parents' native Nigeria four times and calls it beautiful. She can speak Igbo, one of Nigeria's languages. Her father is an accountant, and her mother works in the Housatonic Community College library. Ronald Spiegelhalter, principal of Central High's magnet school program, nominated her for the board. "Isn't it great? She is a person who speaks her mind. I thought she was a natural for the job. She has that certain something," Spiegelhalter said. Chukwurah said the selection process lasted six weeks. It involved writing an essay, submitting resumes and being interviewed several times. The last interview was with members of the governor's staff. "I got more comfortable with the challenge as I kept going through it," Chukwurah said. "I didn't get to meet the governor, but maybe now I will." In her essay, she wrote about the problems in Bridgeport, the urban environment and the lack of money. "I didn't go on ranting and raving, but I touched on the problems with the budget cut we recently had," she said. "I didn't just want to be another student presenting another essay. I wanted to bring out problems we're having in the urban environment." She wrote about the need to bridge the gap between those who do well and who lag behind, using her own school as an example. At Central, Chukwurah is president of the Interact Club, a service organization that does charity walks, works in soup kitchens and is restoring a local elementary school library. She is a member of the National Honor Society, the Spanish National Honor Society, Central's tennis team, African-American Club and debate team. She also was on the student committee that interviewed the candidates to be Central's new principal. In her sophomore year, Chukwurah was a Connecticut Science Fair finalist and was a runner-up in state Sen. Bill Finch's "Who Wants to Change the World" contest. That involved writing a bill that Finch, a Bridgeport Democrat, submitted to the state Legislature. Chukwurah's bill was about creating a memorial for veterans in Hartford. Last summer, Chukwurah served as an intern in the mayor's office. There, she shadowed the mayor and other City Hall employees. She followed Mayor John M. Fabrizi to at least one school board meeting, which she deemed "kind of interesting." She called Fabrizi warmhearted and liked that he remembered her name. "Despite all his problems, he's definitely a good person," Chukwurah said of Fabrizi's recent drug-use admission. Chukwurah has no desire to enter politics. She sees sitting on the state school board as an opportunity to watch the process and learn. She adds she is up to the challenge of driving to Hartford monthly for meetings while juggling her senior year, work and a college search. "I have good time management," she said. Plus, she won't have too many college applications to fill out. Her list of potential colleges is short. She has her heart set on Yale, but hasn't yet crossed out the University of Pennsylvania or New York University. She wants to study medicine, with the goal of becoming a reconstructive plastic surgeon. "I was the kid who would break a chicken bone to see what was inside," she said. "I want to help people who need help: accident victims, burn victims. I want to do something credible."