Most teens associate their last year of high school with prom and slacking off on work, but Hillhouse High School senior Makayla Dawkins will be focusing on educational policy and community projects.

Dawkins was appointed to the Connecticut State Board of Education in August, following an extensive application process. She has served on the New Haven Board of Education since the spring of 2017, and will be the first State Board student representative from New Haven since Coral Ortiz ’21 graduated in 2017.

“I hope to achieve gaining more teachers of color, closing the budget gap in inner city school districts and making sure that every student leaves each CT school with an education that prepares them for college or their career of choice,” Dawkins said about her goals for the year.

The New Haven senior was sworn into the Connecticut State Board of Education when she took the oath of office last Wednesday.

An impressive student and school leader, Dawkins has received many awards connected to Yale. In May, she accepted one of the Yale Bassett Awards for Community Engagement from the Yale Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration. This month, she was awarded a Yale-Seton Book Award — which recognizes students for their “outstanding personal character and intellectual promise.”

In her new position, Dawkins wants to introduce New Haven and Connecticut high schoolers to higher education and outside opportunities, such as the Yale Shafer program, Grip Tape and the Bezos Family Foundation. This past summer, Dawkins was selected for the Bezos Scholars program, which invites 18 students and their educational mentors to the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado to hear from speakers like director Ava DuVernay and Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani.

Additionally, joining with her biology teacher Rachele Thomas, Dawkins is planning to implement a mental health week at Hillhouse that will focus on challenges specific to the New Haven youth.

Members of the New Haven Board of Education lauded Dawkins for the work she has done for New Haven Public Schools — emphasizing her dedication to community service.

“I know she is going to represent us well because she does it here on our board every two weeks,” said Board President Darnell Goldson. “She’s extraordinary, exceptional, and I am just shocked that she has enough time to do it.”

New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, who also sits on the city’s Board of Education, echoed Goldson’s statements. Harp said that Dawkins has offered valuable perspectives on different policies the Board is considering and continues to help board members understand their “constituents.”

Harp also emphasized the importance of having young, student representation on school boards, specifically when the Board of Education wants feedback about the impact of policy decisions on students themselves.

Dawkins said that she hopes to influence the future of student leadership in education policy.

“I will take all of my experience and my advice to pass the baton on to other students so they continue to be change-makers and eventually sit on the board and continue to influence education and make positive change as well,” Dawkins said in an interview with the News.

The Connecticut State Board of Education congratulated Dawkins on her appointment on their Facebook page last Wednesday.

Carolyn Sacco |