JOLIET – Herald-News reporter Felix Sarver recently spoke with Erick Deshaun Dorris, 36, who was appointed this week as a new board inspector for Joliet Public Schools District 86, about his education, Joliet and the organization he co-founded, United In Excellence.
Sarver: What made you want to become a District 86 board inspector?
Dorris: I recently moved back to Joliet. … I started working with [Joliet Township High School District 204] on a community organization called United In Excellence.
I have a background in education in Chicago Public Schools, and when I heard about the [board] vacancy, it just seemed like a good fit to continue working to advocate and help young people here in the city.
Sarver: What do you hope to do as a District 86 board inspector?
Dorris: I don’t have an agenda set in place. Just good financial responsibility and advocating for our students in schools, and teachers.
Sarver: Do you remember where you went to elementary and junior high school as a child? How was your experience in those schools?
Dorris: I went to Eisenhower Academy and Washington Junior High School. I had a fantastic experience. I actually talk a lot about my education in Joliet, especially when I was in Chicago. I think it was a fantastic experience.
Sarver: Do you remember having good teachers?
Dorris: I had really great teachers. I actually went through the band and chorale programs. I played the trombone starting in fourth grade all the way through high school. My arts and after-school teachers were a great inspiration to me.
Sarver: Do you have memories of what Joliet was like when you were growing up?
Dorris: My father [Warren Dorris] was a councilman for most of my childhood.
So I actually had a great kind of view of all of the parts of Joliet and kind of seeing the inner workings of how the city functions. It was a really positive experience.
Sarver: What made you interested in being an artist? What have you done as an artist?
Dorris: My interest in the arts actually started here in Joliet. Again, I was in the band program, went through Joliet public schools’ music program as well as [District 204]’s band and chorale and theater program.
Actually, those teachers at the high school level helped me to audition for the theater program at Milikin University.
From there, I ended up working in arts education through a couple of theaters and arts organization in New Jersey as well as Chicago.
That actually inspired me to move on to the Joliet [schools], where I worked in arts and after-school programs.
So really the theme for my entire career came out of those arts and after-school programs here in Joliet.
Sarver: Do you have any favorite artists?
Dorris: I am a big Nina Simone fan. I always have been. Contemporary artists? No one in particular right now. I think Bruno Mars is pretty popular when he comes on.
Sarver: You also co-founded United In Excellence. What are some of the things the organization has done?
Dorris: We will turn a year old in June. When we started our initial campaign, we raised about $15,000 for a scholarship fund, and that campaign culminated in a performance and celebration at Joliet Central High School. That was in November.
We had a number of arts organizations here … as well as student groups from the high schools to perform in that, which I’m very proud of. We actually are giving out those scholarships … they will be awarded ... in May at both [West and Central] campuses.