Daborah Lee, First Asian-American Board Member

By MARIA GRAFAS

Second Place, School Culture Reporting — Long Island Press  High School Journalism Awards 2016

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Lee didn’t plan on joining the school board. “That was never in my plan. I just like to do things to help out at the school and it just kept rolling and rolling, and it happened,” said Lee.

Jericho Parent and PTA member Daborah Lee was elected as the newest member of the Jericho Board of Education at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year. Her election made her the first Asian-American trustee in Jericho’s history.

Considering Jericho’s diverse student population, numerous students were astounded to hear that Ms. Lee is the first Asian-American Board member. Senior Diksha N. said, “I think it’s kind of shocking that she’s the first after this long. It will hopefully have a positive impact; more diversity and equality.” Freshman Angela C. was also excited to hear the news, “I think that it is amazing that she is now on the Board. I’ve known her for so long, and she has always been at every school event cheering everybody on. She shows her support everywhere.”

When asked how she felt about being the first Asian-American on the Board, Ms. Lee said, “I’m honored. I feel very privileged that I was able to do this for the community. I hope people didn’t vote for me just because I’m Chinese, that they felt that I’m actually helping the community.”

Ms. Lee originally moved to New York from Hong Kong in 1986 when her father was transferred by his company. Prior to moving to New York, she had spent two years in Sherman, Texas as an exchange student. “That was an eye-opening experience for a high schooler. I grew up in Hong Kong where 99 percent of the population is Chinese, and even though I traveled quite a bit when I was a child, that didn’t prepare me to move to Sherman, Texas. I was the only Asian, not just Chinese, in the whole town and that is how one can learn a new language fast.” She also said that people she met were extremely friendly and accepting. “No one treated me differently or badly because I looked different and spoke a little strangely, they embraced me and showered me with kindness.” When she moved to Jericho, she recalls the same kind of welcome. “I was so lucky to meet a lot of great people who showed and taught me what I needed to know, and many of them became my friends. My son also received amazing schooling from his teachers. I deeply appreciate our teachers and administrators because mine were not like that.” When she is not carpooling or cheering at Jericho sporting events, Ms. Lee is a flight attendant. “I do really love people and travel. My job allows me to meet different people all the time which I love. It shows, again that we might not completely understand each other’s culture or ethnic background, but we need to treat others with respect and kindness.” Her job offers flexibility, which she uses to alter her schedule around school events and Board meetings.

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Ms. Lee said that her goal as a Board member is to make Jericho a better community for all races, religions, and orientations.

Although the addition of Daborah Lee brought some much-needed diversity to Jericho’s Board of Education, President William Ferro states that she was nominated for her many wonderful attributes and qualifications. Ferro said, “The fact that she is Asian is certainly a bonus to us because of the changing demographics here in Jericho. It certainly is a positive to have somebody that represents, not only the interests of all the people in the district, but specifically knows the concerns and some of the issues that the Asian population here might face when they come to Jericho.”

When asked about her aspirations for the Board going forward, Ms. Lee said, “I hope by me being elected on the Board, families of all ethnicities will feel more at ease in coming forward to be more engaged in our school community. I received a lot of support from other Board members, administrators, faculty, staff, and even students when running for the position. We are all working towards a more welcoming environment by bridging gaps and improving understanding and relationships.”

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