At a special meeting on July 5, the Lyons Township High School District 204 Board of Education board voted 6-0 to appoint LaGrange Park resident Elvia Nava to fill a vacancy created when Julie Swinehart resigned from the school board on June 1 because she was moving to Boston.
Nava was chosen from a field of 15 applicants, 14 of whom interviewed for the position. One applicant, Nader Hamdan, withdrew his application before the school board conducted interviews on June 26.
Three of the applicants, David Herndon, Tim Vlcek and Justin Clark, ran unsuccessfully for the school board in the April election.
Nava is the second Hispanic member of the school board, joining fellow LaGrange Park resident Tim Albores, who was just elected to the school board in April. Nava is a senior project manager at Parsons Corporation, a company that specializes in aviation, defense and infrastructure.
Nava earned a degree in industrial engineering from the University of Illinois in 1999 and an MBA from National Louis University in 2013. At Parsons, Nava works on projects connected with the capital improvement plan of the Federal Aviation Administration.
Nava grew up in the Back of the Yards neighborhood on the Southwest Side of Chicago as the youngest of 11 children, nine of whom are girls. Her parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico. Nava was born in the United States but spent part of her childhood in Mexico. Nava speaks fluent Spanish, her first language and the language of her childhood home.
“Spanish is definitely what I grew up with and so, for me, it was very important to keep the Spanish so I could communicate with my family,” Nava told the Landmark in a telephone interview after her appointment.
Nava believes that her working class background will be an asset to the school board.
“I grew up in a blue-collar, low-income, underrepresented community and surpassed insurmountable barriers to succeed in life to pursue a higher education in the sciences and engineering at a Big Ten university,” Nava wrote in her application to the school board. “While the makeup at LT is not exactly like mine, unfortunately, the majority of the Latino population families at LTHS are still of lower income. It is important for these students and families to see minorities in leadership roles at their community.”
Nava is the mother of two sons, one of whom will be a freshman at LTHS this fall. She was a founding member of the LaGrange School District 102 Committee for Equity and Minority Achievement. She has been part of District 102’s Parent Advisory Committee and was also part of the District 102 Delegate Assembly, which endorsed school board candidates, in 2016 and 2018. She also served as the After School Programs Committee chair of the Ogden School Parent Teacher Committee.
Nava has long been interested in education. Six of her sisters have worked in schools, five in Chicago Public Schools. For a time, Nava worked as a substitute teacher for the UNO charter school network in Chicago.
“Education is a hot topic of discussion within my family always, and I enjoy the varying degrees of points of views and differences alike,” Nava wrote in her application. “I am also keen on reading about education topics in curriculum, policymaking, and social emotional intelligence in my spare time.”
In a press release, school board President Dawn Aubert thanked all of those who had applied to fill the board vacancy.
“We are grateful to have had so many qualified individuals who responded with willingness to serve, and we are excited to welcome Elvia Nava to the District 204 Board of Education.,” Aubert was quoted as saying in the press release. “Elvia’s strong commitment and passion for our students, community, and public education is clearly evident, and we look forward to the experiences, talents and perspectives she will bring to the board table.”
In her application, Nava said that her engineering background and experience in construction would be helpful as LTHS moves to upgrade its facilities.
“Having someone with an engineering construction background is good to be able to contribute to the team in making careful assessments on facility improvements at LTHS,” Nava wrote.
This story has been updated.