I grew up in a middle class family where I learned empathy for others and the value of hard work. Throughout my career as an educator, advocate for children, and a working mother, I have only ever wanted to see our government ensure that everyone has the same opportunities that I did.
Growing up, my dad did his part to address income inequality; working on housing and neighborhood development programs so that every Pennsylvanian could have a roof over their head in a neighborhood of choice. My mother, our household manager, had no choice but to stop working outside of the home when my triplet siblings were born due to the prohibitive cost of quality child care.
My memories are filled with sales shopping, couponing, and counseling about the difference between needs and wants. My parents showed us that through hard work, you can make a difference in your community and provide a comfortable, loving home. I worry that this feat of avoiding debt and growing savings is now impossible for too many young people following the Great Recession.
I attended Pitt on a scholarship, and I quickly fell in love with both Pittsburgh and my now husband, a native of Hampton Township. While we dated, I attended Hampton wrestling matches and football games to cheer on his brothers. We always sensed Hampton would be part of our future knowing there are excellent schools, parks and recreation facilities, and the opportunity for a great quality of life.
After graduation, I was accepted into a teaching leadership program that places individuals in low income schools. Working in schools during the era of education reform, I saw the consequences of an overemphasis on standards and teacher oversight, and excessive regulations that mandate teachers do everything but what they are trained to do – teach and support children. This had to change.
I took my classroom experience to serve as chief of staff to a state representative working on education policy, especially in relation to children and youth with disabilities. I learned how the legislative process really works and the importance of reaching across the aisle in order to make change happen. Building upon this spirit, I transitioned to a nonprofit advocacy role where I am able to work effectively with legislators in both parties to advance early childhood education.
During these years, I saw my parents experience the squeeze of the sandwich generation, still helping my younger siblings launch into careers, while also responsible for caring for aging parents and relatives. My mom in particular had to fight the healthcare system tooth and nail first for my sick uncle who was unable to maintain employment or healthcare coverage when he fell ill, then for my grandmother, and now for herself. Our healthcare system and prescription benefits are not working for most people and this must change.
As my husband and I started a family of our own, we experienced the great joys that come with being new parents, and the challenge of balancing ever increasing work demands and family life. Finding convenient, quality child care that we could afford was nearly impossible. I experienced varying policies on maternity leave, nursing accommodations, and workplace flexibility. If I struggled to adjust, given my support network and resources, I am saddened and ashamed of what most parents must deal with. While I advocate for many of these issues in my current profession, I am confident that I can do more to create change.
I want to go to Harrisburg to make our economy and our schools work for everyone. I want all children to achieve their full potential through high-quality early learning experiences. I will always fight for those who are looked over or left out. I will work hard to create change for families, our children, and those most in need.