Maybe it’s the short black dreadlocks tucked behind his ears, or the fact that he’s not 50 and doesn’t have children, but it’s hard to picture Rackham student Adam Hollier as a member of the Ann Arbor Public School Board – until he starts talking.
As a first-year graduate student studying urban planning at the University, Hollier is campaigning to join Ann Arbor’s seven-member school board. The Detroit native, who hopes to someday be a professor someday, said he doesn’t view the endeavor as a resume-booster or a means to an end – unless that end is improving Ann Arbor’s school system.
“It wasn’t like a dream of mine to be on the school board,” said Hollier, who will face off against incumbent Helen Gates-Bryant for the spot on May 6. “It was something where I thought I could be of use.”
He’s been campaigning by sitting down with parent groups and other community figures and will soon begin passing out fliers and launch a website with personal information.
At 22, Hollier would be “by far the youngest” member on the board if elected. He said he thinks the age gap will play to his advantage.
“I think it’s really important that I’m young,” he said. “I know what colleges and universities are looking for – I know what you need to be prepared, to be active and to be marketable.”
Hollier, a recent graduate of Cornell University, seems to understand the formula for success himself. A marathon runner and triathlon athlete, Hollier was also a volunteer firefighter and safety on Cornell’s football team.
As a co-chair of the Urban Planning Students Association, Hollier spends time in Detroit helping a neighborhood association by beautifying the neighborhood and encouraging other residents to get involved. But Hollier said he wants to make an impact closer to home.
“The University of Michigan encourages its students to be very active and make a difference in their community, and Ann Arbor’s my community,” he said.
Hollier could barely stop to breathe as he explained what he would like to accomplish if elected.
Though the school board’s duties are primarily budgetary, Hollier has three broad goals.
Potentially working for a school system that has a $6 million deficit, Hollier said he’d advocate for a “more donation-savvy program, similar to how the University handles finances.” He said that as the state slashes funding, the school system must look elsewhere to get it.
Hollier also wants to bolster the relationship between Ann Arbor’s public schools and the University, especially the University’s School of Education. In what he called a “win-win situation,” education students would gain hands-on experience by logging more hours in the classroom while teachers’ workloads would be lightened to allow more time to develop the curriculum and focus on other administrative tasks. Younger students, meanwhile, would benefit by getting more personal attention in the classroom.
Hollier’s third proposal is to expand the alumni network of middle schools and high schools so students have examples of successful people who once opened the same lockers.
If Hollier’s suggestions sound influenced by the University, it’s because he thinks the two school systems should be tied together more closely.
“Ann Arbor is a special situation,” he said. “The Ann Arbor school system can employ solutions that most school systems can’t because of the University.”
Hollier said he decided to run for the position because his urban planning classes emphasize the importance of education. He said his experience as a student representative on a school board during high school also played a role in the decision.
“It taught me a lot about what a school system can be and what a school system should be,” he said.
Hollier said members of his family are excited at the potential for him to serve on the board but have a few reservations.
“Some of them think I’m crazy and a lot of them think it’s crazy to be on the school board because it’s a thankless job, but I think it’s really important.”
If Hollier doesn’t get elected come May, he’ll try to find other ways to implement his ideas in the school system. Hollier said, coming up with solutions and dreaming big is what it’s all about.
“I’ve always wanted to be president, but that’s sort of a long-term goal,” he said matter-of-factly. “I’ve always wanted to make the biggest difference I could.”