E9: Meet a Newly-Elected School Board Member Fighting for Inclusion and Disability Justice

In Minneapolis, about half the students identified for special education services are not fully included in classrooms. We chat with newly-elected school board member Sonya Emerick, who is both a graduate of and a parent in Minneapolis Public Schools. They start their term with a deep commitment to making change.

Sonya Emerick 

Sonya Emerick was elected as the Minneapolis school board’s first autistic director November, 2022. A Minneapolis Public Schools graduate (Hale/Field, Anthony, South High) and lifelong Minneapolis resident, Sonya was raised on the Southside and built their own family on the Northside. This love for the whole city drives Sonya’s commitment to address the needs of ALL Minneapolis students in each and every school in every neighborhood. Sonya is autistic and their six-year-old with complex disabilities is enrolled at Marcy Arts Magnet. Sonya sits on the Site Council at Marcy as a parent rep, serves on the MPS Special Education Advisory Council, and is on the Board of Directors for the Autism Society of MN. 

Sonya’s decades of community organizing experience include work with homeless and at-risk youth, launching a Minneapolis community center, and organizing food distribution. As a youth case manager, when Sonya’s homeless or highly mobile clients faced barriers to school enrollment, Sonya was known for sitting in school administration offices and staying for as long as it took for their students to be enrolled.