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I first met Dr. Heidi Larson while I was building Girls on the Run and was asked to come and speak to her Mattoon High School students who were going through B.I.O.N.I.C. training to become mentors in the summer of 2013.

These students, I learned, had been nominated by MHS teachers and staff because of their leadership skills. They participated in an intensive training and then were placed on one of four teams, with each team’s goal to make a positive impact the culture, environment, and graduation outcomes for all Mattoon High School students. It is clear that today’s high school students face much different challenges and more intense pressures than students in the past. The B.I.O.N.I.C. program was created by Dr. Heidi Larson to give these students the tools and the skills to appropriately handle those hurdles and pitfalls, as well as building a network of support for the entire school.

I was immediately struck by her ability to identify issues impacting the student outcomes at MHS, and her creativity at finding a solution, and her drive and commitment to improving doing something to address these concerns. Being an experienced educator herself, she understands the needs of the teachers, the ebbs and flows of the classroom, and the ever changing needs of a diverse group of students.

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I believe that Dr. Heidi Larson would be an exceptional advocate for the students at MHS, a creative problem solver, and champion of the staff of Mattoon High School, and a leader within the Mattoon community. She values collaboration and partnership, and has a proven track record of making lasting and positive change for all students at MHS. Her commitment to this community and to the Mattoon Public School is clear. She would get my vote to be a member of the Mattoon School Board of Education without any hesitation.

Beth Gillespie, Charleston

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