An initiative of Meridian CUSD 101
School Board member Kristen Kaufman wants her children to have the same opportunities she had while attending Meridian High School. She has two boys currently walking the same halls she and her husband walked in the nineties. Her passion is evident as she expresses her desire to ensure they receive “the opportunities they need to go into the world and make a living once they graduate.”
Kristen and her husband, Brad, graduated from Meridian in 1998 and have since established themselves as hardworking small business owners. But she doesn’t define the same opportunities in the literal sense or expect her children to become serial entrepreneurs. Instead, she wants the school system that set her and her husband up to successfully explore their own paths, to provide the same gift for her children, as well as every child in the district. Whether it’s the skill to find gainful employment, a trade school, or college, Kristen believes it’s the responsibility of the school and the community to support its youth in the exploration of their individual dreams, regardless of the details.
“I went to Meridian all my life. So did my husband,” Kristen exclaims with pride. “People are needed in the community.”
“I’m glad to see all the opportunities we’re allowed to give the students now. I’m a Meridian alumna, and we had a lot of opportunities when I was there. It seems it kind of went downhill, but now it’s being built back up, and I’m glad to see it.”
After earning an associate degree in early childcare and working for a series of daycare facilities, Kristen opened her own and ran it for twelve years. She eventually closed down to work with her husband, who had opened Brad’s Collision Works (In Anna) five years prior. Since then, Brad’s Collision Works has acquired a towing business and employs a dozen individuals. When not working at the family business, Kristen is also active on the school board, where she’s finishing her fourth year and is determined to run for reelection.
When asked what she hopes for her two high school-aged boys, Cole and Nolan, she doesn’t pause. “I just hope they go after their interests and what they want to do,” she says. “One of them probably wants to go to college. The other has no interest in going to college. He’s more likely to go to a trade school.”
She continues, “We’re not going to push them either way. Whatever their dream is and whatever they feel comfortable doing and going after, that’s what I want for them.”
Kristen sees the school as a hub for community engagement. She focuses on three pillars—safety, education, and uniting the community through its youth. She considers Meridian unique in that they proactively involve their students in planning. Meridian established a Parent Teacher Student Organization (PTSO) where most school systems stop short of involving the very children they serve.
“I wish even more individuals would participate in the PTSO and try to help out with the kids,” she says. “With more parents involved, they could provide even more support to the kids and the community at large.”
She concludes matter-of-factly, reminding us that “we have to put our students first.” In a school system that chooses to proactively bring everyone together – parents, teachers, and students – the ability to provide opportunity for everyone seems limitless.