Letter to the Editor: Perspective from School Committee Member Jen Lima

Jen Lima, School Committee Member

When I decided to run for the North Kingstown School Committee back in June, it was literally done about a week before the filing deadline. It was not a long thought-out decision, rather a case of feeling like I needed to do something. Being a part of the school committee was something that I considered, and I realized I either had to run for office or wait another two years. I decided to go for it.

Then, I set about learning as much as I could; studying budgets, binge-watching past school committee meetings, and speaking to as many people in the community as I could. I needed perspective on what our school district does well, and what we can do better. In the middle of trying to get my arms around what the position would entail, the time came when I had to campaign in order to get myself elected. I was naive and had no idea how much work I would need to do.

Yet I had a problem: I am an introvert by nature. I hate public speaking, I don’t like talking about myself, and sometimes I dread common social situations. The truth is, when you picture the ideal politician, you don’t picture me.

About two weeks into my campaign, an event came up that I was asked to go to. I panicked and begged my husband to go with me. But then I realized that my husband wasn’t going to be able to sit with me on the committee. There would be situations in the future that I needed to be able to tackle myself. And so, I continued my campaign with a newfound goal of self-determination and independence. 

The experience was incredible. I’ve learned more about North Kingstown this election cycle than in my previous twenty-eight years of residency. If nothing else, I hope that my campaign has inspired others in similar situations to run for local office as well. Whether it’s the school committee, town council, a seat on a board, your church, or your child’s sports organization – every day there is an opportunity to get involved and make a difference. 

I decided to run for the North Kingstown School Committee because I think it’s important that people get involved with politics at the local level. I also wanted my children to see that it is possible to create change when you demonstrate diligence. I also believe that being a part of the process is key. If you want to see revisions made, you can’t just sit on the sidelines.

While I was campaigning, I was also in the process of forming an anti-racist organization here in NK. Our organization, similar to the one in South Kingstown that was successful in adopting educational reforms, is called “Towards an Anti-Racist North Kingstown (T.A.N.K). Our mission is to move North Kingstown forward as a community by acknowledging diverse history, celebrating equity, and practicing inclusiveness through anti-racist policy reform and advocacy.  The North Kingstown School Department has committed to making diversity, equity, and inclusion a priority for FY21-22. We’ve made developing a comprehensive plan to achieve this a part of our strategic goals. 

I was impressed to see so much youth involvement during the election, and I am equally excited to have strong student and young adult participation in T.A.N.K. as well.  The more people we get involved in politics at the local level, the more our town and our schools will represent the people.

Harry Emerson Fosdick said, “Democracy is based upon the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people.” Join me, Jen Lima, in discovering your possibilities.