MABTON - Vijay Parulkar and Natalie Palomarez are candidates for the Mabton School Board, Pos. 2, seat formerly held by David Rodriguez.
Both filed during a late, three-day filing period because there were no candidates for the seat during the June filing period.
Parulkar, a classroom volunteer and a helper with a student robot project, said he saw the need for someone to seek the school board seat, and said parents in the district asked him to try to get on the board.
Palomarez decided to seek the position as an extension of her volunteer service in the Mabton community. Her past volunteer experience includes offering DJ services for community pageants, serving as a reserve police officer and as a first responder for the Mabton Fire Department.
First-hand appreciation for education
Both view student learning as the top priority if elected to the school board.
Palomarez knows all too well the benefit of a good education - and the cost of lacking that education.
A lifelong Mabton resident, Palomarez said she dropped out of high school in Mabton. "If I knew then what I know..." she said wistfully.
She got her GED in 1987, but her track to gaining a higher education only came about in the last few years after the warehouse she worked at closed. She first obtained a paralegal degree from CBC, then followed her goal to complete a four-year college degree by graduating magna cum laude from Heritage University. Today she is a family service worker for the Washington State Migrant Council.
Parulkar's drive to help student learning in Mabton also comes from personal experience.
Formerly an assistant manager at Walmart, he is now a full-time student in the nursing program at YVCC and works with the disabled through SL Start.
For Palomarez, the student learning focus is on improving high school graduation rates in Mabton.
"I've worked a lot of warehouse jobs, so I know what happens when you don't have your education," she said.
Parulkar feels there could also be more focus on middle school students.
While he agrees with the need to help high school students graduate and achieve good test scores so they can pursue college, he also feels middle schoolers and their testing needs to be given a closer look.
Parulkar notes student achievement and learning in middle school gives them a boost as they prepare for high school.
Both of the candidates are big advocates for more involvement by parents in Mabton schools.
"If every parent came in once a month and helped out in a classroom it would make a big difference," says Parulkar.
"There needs to be better communication with the parents," Palomarez adds. "It's important for parents to be involved with their child's learning."