The IAISS governance council began its work in early 2015, bringing together just over a dozen community members to guide work on the Pathway to Student Success. Periodically, council members will be featured here on the blog – beginning with Kelly Chandler, division manager of public health for Itasca County. 

Kelly Chandler serves the Itasca Area Initiative for Student Success as a member of the Governance Council.  She is employed as a Division Manager in Itasca County Public Health.

Kelly Chandler serves the Itasca Area Initiative for Student Success as a member of the Governance Council. She is a Division Manager for Itasca County Public Health.

What first brought you to the Student Success initiative? The community members involved with the student success initiative recognized early in the work that health care was a perspective needed on the governance council. Prior to being asked to be involved in the student success initiative, I honestly did not have a large amount of background information. But I believe in the “Cradle to Career” concept, because factors that impact a person’s success truly start even prior to the cradle.

Research shows that relationships with caregivers and family structures in the first three years of life influence brain development and a child’s ability to learn. Positive relationships and family structures are promoted and supported with public health programs. I am fascinated by early attachment and brain development, and how this affects a person’s ability to develop and learn, even into adulthood. I see my role, in part, as promoting factors necessary for learning which develop well before actually entering the education system.

Why do you think it’s important for Public Health to be involved in this work? Public health has a focus on both the individual level and the community and systems level. Our perspective is very broad-based: we prevent, promote, and protect the health of our community. We recognize and advocate for our vulnerable populations – the ones who go unseen and/or unheard. We focus on strengths within families and systems.

The student success initiative hopes to use data to better understand the needs of youth in our community. Public health is another important source of data. Where there are disparities related to health topics across our community, we have the data to direct planning and action.  

What is your proudest moment from your involvement in the initiative? I am most proud of members’ ability to listen and recognize the scope of “all will have,” in the pathway, even if the student success and governance members are not working with “all.” I am also proud of the overall commitment to this initiative by the student success member.

What do you dream is possible if the initiative lives up to its promise? I want to reach the most vulnerable – those who have experienced trauma, or have unstable family lives, or whose family structures do not embrace the importance of education. I want “all” to be successful, but if we can reach the most disparate, or the most vulnerable, we will be on our way to embracing the Pathway in the fullest way possible in the IASC area.