Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Mita Havlick was born in India, grew up near Chicago and has lived all over the world. While working in IT, she began volunteering at Stonewall Jackson Elementary where her children attended. Volunteering quickly became advocacy for public education, which she calls “the last opportunity equalizer.” When a Dallas ISD budget shortfall meant that Stonewall’s gardens would not be funded, she saw parents band together to save the garden and was inspired. Havlick went on to advocate for change in campus leadership and ran for Dallas ISD school board in 2016. She lost to the current District 2 trustee Dustin Marshall by just 42 votes but since has been appointed by Superintendent Michael Hinojosa to chair the Dallas ISD Superintendent’s Districtwide Advisory Council. In this role and as director of community outreach for the Emmanuel Community Center, she continues to make an impact. 

Her motivation: During the campaign, it became apparent how much people care and really buy into our public schools. Being a parent in DISD is not my qualification, but my motivation. My kids have educational opportunities, but that same opportunity does not exist throughout the district. What can we do?

On losing: It was a life lesson. I really believe I ran my race on the values with which we raise our children: integrity, respect and resilience. It was a learning opportunity, and I don’t feel like I lost. 

Being a parent in DISD is not my qualification, but my motivation.

On her nonprofit of choice: The Emmanuel Community Center is a food pantry where we support 100 working families and 40 to 50 homeless each month. We are serving a point in time need, but we also ask what we can do to systemically improve their lives.

Dispelling misconceptions: I get emails, randomly, about how our schools are terrible. It is so easy to be an armchair quarterback. I wish people would buy into our public schools and wish all families would try public schools. I hope people don’t discount public schools. I said during my campaign that I wish parents would volunteer at schools where their kids don’t go to have their eyes opened.

Her experience with gender discrimination: As a short woman of color, there were prejudices. I was the only female at my school to graduate with a degree in physics my year. I worked at the Department of Energy and was the only woman in the office. Promotions often went to men, and opportunities were given to those who had been there longer. When I ran for office, questions that were asked of me were not asked of my opponent. I answered them directly. There was very much gender bias, but I refuse to let that stop me or let my daughter feel like it would stop her. We may have to work harder, but we can’t let that stop us. 

Best advice: When you give your time for something, it feeds your soul.

Her advice to her younger self: If you are happy in your life today, the path you took was the right one. Perhaps start sooner with all of it, and do something in your life that you want to do. As an immigrant, the focus is always to get a good job and make money. While that is very true, if I could do it over again and if I knew what public policy was at that time, I would go into that. And don’t stress over your kid’s kindergarten. 

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