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Features

Will County's interim board member doesn't 'push away' from challenges

'You jump on it and do whatever you have to do to meet that challenge.'

As a Joliet Central High School student, Edna Brass struggled with math.

But she scored extremely well on one geometry test after hours of study.

Her takeaway?

“Sometime there are going to be challenges that are greater than others,” Brass of Joliet Township said. “Just because the challenge is greater doesn’t mean you push away from it. You jump on it and do whatever you have to do to meet that challenge.”

That advice helped Brass through statistic class in graduate school.

And she clings to that advice today.

Last month, the Will County board appointed Brass to represent District 8 to fill a vacant seat.

Denise Winfrey, D-Joliet, vacated the seat after she was appointed as interim county executive after the death of Larry Walsh Sr. June.

Brass said the appointment surprised and humbled her.

“I’m the person who goes about doing what needs to be done without accolades,” Brass said. “I’ve always been taught that you give back – and that you help people."

The appointment aligns with values Brass' three core values: family, faith and community.

And by family, Brass said she doesn’t mean just mean her bloodline but anyone with whom she builds a close relationship.

That includes members of Second Baptist Church in Joliet – where Brass grew up – and Mount Zion Baptist Church in Joliet, her current church home and part of her support system, Brass said.

It includes the Joliet community and Brass’ lifelong participation in it.

Brass attended Eliza Kelly Elementary School, Washington Junior High School and Joliet Central. Her husband Saul and their three daughters also attended Joliet Central.

Both parents worked at Caterpillar - but different shifts so someone was always with the children, Brass said.

Brass' husband Saul also worked - and retired from - Caterpillar, she said.

“When we would do road trips and see Caterpillar machines, I would say, ‘Thank you, Jesus,’” Brass said.

At Joliet Central, Brass participated in the junior class committee, the senior class committee, student council and National Honor Society.

Brass was also the Adams Award Winner in 1971, an award given to a senior female student with the highest grade point average, Brass said.

She was also Miss J 1971, one of the first – if not the first – African American student to earn that honor, she said.

Brass later established the Brass Family Education Scholarship for JTHS seniors pursuing a career in education.

Brass earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in speech pathology from Western Illinois University.

She atended Governors State University and Illinois State University for post graduate work in educational administration, as well as Eastern Illinois University for post graduate work and additional state certifications, according to a news release from Joliet Township High School District 204.

As JTHS director of special services, Brass worked to ensure students with disabilities, homeless students, homebound and hospitalized students received appropriate services and programs, the release said.

Brass believes everyone ultimately wants the same thing, a good quality of life.

“So just because somebody has a different socioeconomic level than you or less education than you, you still value that person just because they are that – a person,” Brass said. “Sometimes the difference between you being homeless and somebody else being homeless is, a lot of times, opportunity. Not laziness or lack of drive.”

Brass serves as a JTHS Bridge Builder and established the Brass Family Education Scholarship for JTHS seniors pursuing a career in education. 

She believes people should determine their purpose and then embrace it and carry it out.

“Try to not let what somebody else may feel or think deter you in any way,” Brass said. “Just persevere and keep going. Be grateful for what life brings you: the good and the bad, because all of it makes you the person who you are. So instead of being bitter, try to be better.”

Some of the organizations Brass has served include the Community Foundation of Will County, the National Hook-Up of Black Women and the Will-Grundy Medical Clinic, the release said.

She's received National Hook-Up of Black Women, Joliet Chapter Education Award; Who's Who Among American Teachers; NAACP Outstanding Performance in Youth Services; Midwest Christian Women's Conference "Woman of Excellence Award," Baptist General State Convention Outstanding Contributions in Public Education; and the Generation Dance Company Year of the Woman Award, the release said.

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