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Julie Hummel volunteered to organize Matthew Whaley Elementary’s Strawberry Festival, serve on the citizens redistricting committee when Matoaka Elementary was built and work as the “ticket mom” for theater performances at Lafayette High School.
But it’s in her new role as the City of Williamsburg representative on the Williamsburg-James City County School Board that she says she can really give back to the community.
“I basically took from the WJCC school system,” Hummel said. “They educated me and my kids and now I have an opportunity to volunteer in a way that I really hope gives back to the whole school system.”
Hummel, 55, grew up in Williamsburg and graduated from Lafayette High School in 1978.
She said her drive to serve is inspired in part by her parents’ legacy of giving – her parents were Jim Yankovich, former dean of the School of Education at William & Mary, and Ann Yankovich, former health services coordinator for WJCC schools.
“It’s ironic [that] here I am as an adult hoping I can just give a little of that same sort of commitment that my mom did for years for the school system,” Hummel said.
She graduated from the University of Virginia in 1982 and lived in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, Tennessee and Oklahoma before her husband got a job opportunity that would bring her back to Williamsburg.
Hummel admitted she thought hard over the decision – she recalled a “very, very small” Williamsburg in the 1970s – but at the encouragement of her sister, who had children in WJCC schools, Hummel and her family moved to Williamsburg in 2003.
From there, Hummel jumped into volunteering with the school division, taking on the challenge of organizing the Strawberry Festival at Matthew Whaley in her first year with the school’s PTA. Although being festival chair was a big time commitment, Hummel said it allowed her to meet parents and get to know the school.
Hummel became PTA president not long after and led the association as it planned events for Matthew Whaley’s 75th anniversary in 2006. Funds raised at these events allowed the PTA to have a statue made of the school’s namesake, which sits in front of the school building today.
Around this time Hummel took on the more trying challenge of serving on the citizens redistricting committee, which helped determine which schools Williamsburg students would attend when Matoaka Elementary was completed. The process was difficult, Hummel said, and resolved if she were “in the position to make it a better process, [she] would take that opportunity.”
Hummel worked as a substitute teacher in 2007 and 2008 and filled in at Berkeley Middle School’s front desk, an experience that allowed her to see the “good, bad and ugly” of a typical school day.
“It was really good to get the perspective of a substitute versus a parent in the classroom, and the front desk,” Hummel said.
She stepped back from volunteering in the schools after she earned her master’s in higher education and started working full time in 2009 as the associate director of program development and innovation for the undergraduate business program at William & Mary.
Hummel was not away from the schools long before she started receiving phone calls from community members, including her School Board predecessor Elise Emanuel, who wanted her to apply for a seat on the board.
With her youngest child now in college, Hummel said she felt she could be objective on school division issues and, as an empty-nester, had more time to give back to the community.
“I had a blast with all my volunteer work because I could see a direct connection” between volunteering and how it benefited her children, Hummel said. “Now I’m at the point where I want to volunteer and not see the direct correlation for my kids but for all of the kids of Williamsburg.”
She applied last year and was appointed to Emanuel’s seat by the Williamsburg City Council in December. Her goals on the School Board include promoting open lines of communication, achieving basic equity among schools and encouraging continuous improvement.
“I think we do a whole lot of things right,” Hummel said. “I’m not coming here thinking I’m going to correct a whole bunch of things that are wrong.”
As a leader, Hummel said she hopes she is seen as a practical consensus builder who has legitimacy from her experience as a WJCC schools parent and substitute.
She said her constituents can expect her to be “one of those School Board members who asks a lot of questions,” not just to educate herself but also members of the community.
“If I’ve got those questions, they’re the kind of questions others might want answered as well,” Hummel said.
Hummel’s term began Jan. 1 and will conclude Dec. 31, 2019. She represents the City of Williamsburg alongside board vice-chairwoman Kyra Cook.