Newly appointed DUS board member hopes to be a voice for the youth

DOWAGIAC — As a church pastor and a longtime basketball, football and track coach, Tracey Hatcher is used to being evaluated by the public eye. So when Hatcher was unanimously appointed to the vacant Dowagiac Union Schools board of education seat by the board, he saw it as another opportunity to show the community what a leader should look like.

“I have to thank God for giving me this opportunity to be on the board,” Hatcher said. “I have to thank the board members, too. Teamwork makes the dream work. If we can work together, can make great improvements. I’m a down to earth person and I’m open to listening, because sometimes leadership doesn’t see everything.”

A Niles native, Hatcher moved to Dowagiac 25 years ago and immersed himself in the community. Hatcher has been the pastor of Peace Temple Church of God in Christ, 102 Andrew St., Dowagiac, for the past four years and has been coaching boys basketball, track and field, and youth football for years.

“One of the things I feel that I bring to the table is that I’m active in our community,” Hatcher said. “I’m concerned about the young people. I want to be a positive influence on the community and to help both the young people and the school board reach greater heights.”

According to the Michigan Department of Education, 27 percent of the students in the district belong to a minority race, with 8.6 percent of the population being African American. Hatcher hopes that seeing someone on the board who looks like them will both comfort and inspire the African American student body.

“I think that’s very important,” he said.  “Identifying and accepting different cultures can sometimes be difficult but it gives you a better outlook on life. I think it’s important for young students of color to see a positive role model in the community. They need to see positivity. To this day, I get calls from former players and parents of players saying how much they appreciated the care that I showed them. That’s one of the best feelings in the world.”

With the district gearing up to start school on Sept. 8 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Hatcher thinks he is equipped to help the district overcome the obstacles it is facing.

“I’m hoping that my voice of reason will help give these kids something to look up to.,” Hatcher said. “I think that with my experience in life, I can be a help in a difficult time for our students. As a pastor who has had to minister remotely, I have experience with virtual tech. My goal is to keep the young people focused on what they need to do.”

Hatcher hopes to be a bridge between the student body and the school board.

“We’re dealing with a different generation of young people,” Hatcher said. “If you don’t earnestly interact with them, you won’t be able to understand them. I’m looking forward to working with the school board to help them better. When I coach track and basketball, I always stress the importance of academics, the importance of getting good grades. Sports may not last a lifetime, but education can take you places you never would’ve thought possible. It’s also important to understand that these kids may be coming from backgrounds without much support. From being around these young people, I think I can reach them.”

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