Service is a way of life for Erik Servellon

Millennial Erik Servellon, 32, is driven by a passion for community

service and public education. After a failed bid to win a Learning

Community board seat in 2018, this son of El Salvadoran immigrant

parents is now running for the Omaha Schools Board District 9 post in

South Omaha.

 

“I am 100 percent pro-public education. I want to do everything we can

to invest in public education,” said Servellon, Business Outreach

Coordinator with Avenue Scholars Foundation. “I want to focus heavily

on career readiness. OPS has a career center doing some great work. I

want to expand it, not just for the legacy trades like welding and

construction, but for IT.

 

“For a district with a student population of 54,000, we currently have

one person in the Diversity and Inclusion Office. I want to build that

office and have a strong diversity and inclusion policy to make sure

black, brown, Asian-Pacific Islander students don’t get missed. I

think Superintendent Cheryl Logan is doing a great job, but I want to

challenge her to never forget those underrepresented communities.”

 

His pursuit of elected office is informed by past stints assisting

Nebraska State Sen. Tony Vargas in Lincoln and working as Election

Board Coordinator in the Douglas County Election Commission. But his

purpose only came into focus once deployed to Afghanistan with the

Nebraska Army National Guard as a flight medic in 2017. He followed

his two older brothers in military service. His younger brother also

served.

 

“I did not find my true why until my deployment. I got a taste of war

and realized i want to serve my community. I realized we need to grow

our Latino leadership pool – and I want to do my part. I want to see

the Latino community elevated and South Omaha have a great corps of

champions and leaders.”

 

One way he elevates peers is as president of the Metro Young Latino

Professionals Association (MYLPA).

 

“The mission of MYLPA is to amplify the power of Latinos through civic

and professional engagement,” he said. “This year we’re awarding

$25,000 in college scholarships for Dreamer and DACA youth. We’ve got

great applicants. They have stories so similar to mine.

Their parents wanted a better life and now these youth get a chance to

live the American Dream.”

 

Starting this year, scholarship recipients are matched with a mentor.

 

MYLPA, he said, helps prepare a new generation of representative leaders.

 

“We use our board as a training ground for young Latino professionals

to go serve on other boards. This fall we’re launching a board

mentoring training in partnership with Nonprofit Association of the

Midlands.”

 

He honed his own skill set as an Omaha New Leaders Council fellow and

University of Nebraska at Omaha master’s in Public Administration

graduate student.

 

His young professional profile got him invited to the Mayor’s

Millennial Advisory Committee. His community work led to him being

named one of 2018’s Ten Outstanding Young Omahans and receiving the

Distinguished Service Award. He’s recognized as one of 2019’s Ten

Outstanding Young Americans by JCI USA and as a 2019 Community Builder

by Civic Nebraska.

 

Servellon’s social capital is inspired by his own school experience.

Until age 11 he lived in gang-ridden East Los Angeles. Better work

opportunities and living conditions drew the family to Nebraska in

  1. He struggled until a teacher recognized a vision problem.

Outfitted with eyeglasses, Servellon blossomed as a student. Then his

father died from chronic alcoholism.

 

“He was a great dad,” Servellon said. “He was very caring, very

generous, very kind. But the disease took him in 2000 (at age 49).”

 

Servellon’s older brothers were already on their own, but his mother

was left to raise him and his younger brother.

 

“She had to do the whole single-parent thing, which was difficult, but

bless her heart for doing it. Without a father, I knew I needed male

role models – I yearned for it – and I got them at Omaha Central High

School.”

 

Instructors Dwaine Sutter, Drew Thyden and Harry Gaylor, he said,”were

models for me.”

 

“They helped me get my first job. They taught me how to compete and

how to be a leader. They did all these things for me. I made a promise

that after I graduated I would be there whenever they needed help, and

I have been. They invested in me and I invest back in them.”

 

He continues his missionary work at Avenue Scholars Foundation, where

he builds relationships with businesses to provide internships.

 

“We believe internships are the way to help students get that first

career experience. It comes full circle from those educators at

Central using their network to get me that first job. I’m doing that

now for students. It’s a great feeling seeing these young scholars

succeed.”

 

Another reason he’s vying for the OPS board is do right by those

educators who impacted him and others.

 

“The district’s pension fund is $773 million underfunded and without

some game-plan or stewardship it has a very real chance of not paying

out promised pensions. That does not sit well with me. I will be a

loud voice for teachers to make sure they get their due.”

 

He’s a wiser candidate than in 2018.

 

“That was our very first campaign and we learned lessons we’re ready

to put to work. “

 

He feels in good hands with campaign manager Krystal Fox, who was a

field team worker on Barack Obama’s presidential runs.

 

Win or lose, Servellon will continue giving back. He encourages others

to serve their community.

 

“All it takes is to get up, talk to your neighbors, get active in your

neighborhood association. Everybody is very capable of serving. The

key is to continue to serve.

I live by it every day.”

 

Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.com.

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