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I’m writing this letter today to show my support for Dr. Heidi Larson for Mattoon Community Unit District No. 2 for School Board.

Dr. Larson has been a professor of Counseling and Higher E at Eastern Illinois University for 14 years and a member of the Mattoon community for 20 years. She is an incredibly generous and kind person, someone who strives to both make herself better as well as those collaborating with her in various endeavors. As a teacher at our local secondary school, I first met Dr. Larson in 2013 as she worked to establish a new program at MHS to help improve school culture in many different aspects of our students’ lives.

Dr. Larson implemented the BIONIC (Believe It Or Not, I Care) program at Mattoon High School by working countless hours with our students to introduce them to an entirely new way of thinking about school and how we want to redefine the culture of our school. To be honest, I was at first a bit skeptical about the program and the benefits we would reap for our time, but with Dr. Larson’s guidance, we saw a huge improvement in many qualitative and quantitative aspects of life at MHS.

Dr. Larson guided our students on a path to leadership and ownership that they would have otherwise not discovered at so early an age. She gave them opportunities for productive struggle early in their development that many of my former students acknowledge to this day have prepared them for a successful future. She provided the groundwork for showing empathy in ways that students have an incredibly difficult time doing at that point in their lives. Perhaps most importantly, she provided a shining example to all of us who participated in her program and struggled through some of the more challenging parts with us as we all worked together to make MHS a better place.

One point that may get lost in the shuffle here is that this great program could have been employed in one of several area schools. Smaller schools like Sullivan, Windsor, or Okaw Valley would have been more appealing because the number of students at those institutions would have made it much more manageable to effectively employ the strategies associated with the program. Charleston certainly would have been more practical based on its relative location to Eastern. In short, Dr. Larson has already made Mattoon schools better in ways that the average voter may not even realize, but she could have easily put her time, resources, and energy to work elsewhere. However, she chose us. And I suggest we choose her.

Eric Sinclair, Indianapolis

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