A little apprehension isn’t enough to keep Dionna Langford (BSW ’13) from making a difference, especially when it comes to her community’s youth.
Langford supports her community in multiple ways – but her most well-known is her seat as the youngest-ever member of the Des Moines School Board, where she focuses on issues of college and career-readiness and equity in Des Moines schools.
In 2015, when she made the decision to run at age 23, she had some apprehension about not feeling “ready” enough, and of course she felt some fear, she said – but ultimately, fear wasn’t enough of a reason not to run for office.
“I had to come to a place where I saw what I had to offer now,” she said. “When I ran, I was five or six years removed from my high school experience, and I didn’t feel that perspective was represented on the board.”
Apart from offering a unique perspective because of her own age, Langford also works with young adults in her job, and hears their hopes and struggles every day.
“That representation is important, because we bring all of who we are to whatever position we’re in,” she said. “That’s how we add value. I had to come to a place where I saw what I had to offer now.”
In her day job, Langford currently works for the Work Readiness Program at Children and Families of Iowa, helping young adults create action plans to achieve their educational and vocational goals. Previously, she worked as a Project Organizer with AMOS (A-Mid Iowa Organizing Strategy) and as a Business and Employer Relations Coordinator with the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families.
Langford has loved all her organizing work, and her position on the school board is deeply meaningful to her as well.
“It brings me alive more than anything else in my world right now,” she said. “I love hearing from students directly about their experiences.”
She is also aware of her role in making students aware that they, too, can run for office if they want to – sooner, even, than they may have otherwise thought.
“I’m really big on empowering people, and if I can help anyone else get engaged in our political process, sign me up,” she said.
Langford, who attended East High School in Des Moines, received a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work in 2013 with a certificate in Critical Cultural Competence. The School of Social Work also played an enormous role in the development of her career. From larger concepts like how social systems interact, to small details like punctuality, it provided a solid basis for her career.
“I am a social worker until I die,” she said, laughing. “That will always be my foundation and will always be my heart.”