I grew up in the 14th district, which I’m now running to represent. I attended Pine City Elementary. I remember my favorite books in the library, “How to be a gymnast” and “How to be a figure skater.” The librarian, Mrs. Barton, encouraged us to write the author of our favorite books and I was surprised when I received a letter back all the way from Colorado. Pine City Elementary encouraged my creativity and helped me dream big.
In third grade, inspired by the book “Gifted Hands” by Dr. Ben Carson, I decided to become a doctor. I knew that it would take hard work and I used my dream as motivation to study hard and work to be at the top of my class. I remember when the Star Gazette used to print the names of individuals who made the Honor Roll for each quarter. Neighbors or church members would note that they’d seen my name in the newspaper and congratulate me on my hard work. My mother would often point out that my efforts weren’t the result of pressure my parents placed on me but a result of my personal drive and motivation to excel. Like many of our young people I was really motivated to find a way out of Elmira and to succeed in the larger world.
I understood my parents’ financial limitations and I knew that I would have to earn a scholarship to attain my dream of being a doctor. I was incredibly thrilled when my efforts resulted in a full scholarship to Villanova University. Once at Villanova, I not only carried the rigorous coursework of a pre-med student, I also walked on to the track and field team becoming a division I athlete. To excel at both of these ambitions, I had to be adept at time management, a disciplined student, and committed athlete.
While I worked hard as a student-athlete, my plans of being a doctor were almost derailed when I found out I was pregnant at the end of my freshman year. Notably, Chemung County has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the State. This could have been the end of my story but I had a support system that allowed me to stay in school and complete my education. I took a leave of absence from Villanova for the semester I was pregnant and enrolled full time at SUNY Albany, where I lived with my brother and his family in order to keep my health insurance. When the spring semester came around, I missed the first two weeks of school before Richard was born. He was delivered on a Wednesday, I went back to Villanova the following Saturday and started classes the following Monday. That was the only year I didn’t run track and field and that spring semester was also my highest GPA during college. Not only did I resume college, but I also finished in the same 4 years as my classmates. I believe that I can serve as a role model to other young women and I advocate for support systems that allow parents to remain in school or at work.
After graduating with my Bachelors, I moved to Pittsburgh, where I went on to complete my Master’s in Biology and developed a love of teaching. This was the early 2000s, before Pittsburgh was the home of Google’s second headquarters. Pittsburgh was at a crossroads. It was no longer the Steel town it once was and yet it hadn’t decided how to recreate itself. Pittsburgh tapped its greatest resource, its human capital. It created collaborations between its universities and it retrained its workforce for 21st century jobs. Are there still growing pains? Yes. But having seen how Pittsburgh was able to assess its resources and re-envision its future was invaluable experience for me and is exactly what Chemung County needs right now.
In 2004, I left the Steel City and moved back to the Philadelphia area and I started my Ph.D. program at the University of Pennsylvania. One of the first things I noticed about Penn was that there was no recycling anywhere on campus. Recycling was second nature for me. We recycled at Pine City Elementary and Villanova University, but this world renowned institution was lagging behind. I joined as recycling taskforce. I went to meetings with Penn’s Facilities and Real Estate Services (FRES), where I learned that garbage pick up and recycling was not managed by a centralized office but in fact each of the 12 schools at Penn handled its own trash pick up as well as numerous other concerns. This is very similar to the relationship that our county and our municipalities have. Our taskforce had to meet with each of the colleges, just like our legislators should be meeting with each of our municipalities. We got FRES to initiate recycling outdoors, which fell under its purview and then we convinced the colleges to get on board using students from each college to encourage their administration. We even started a competition between the colleges to see who could collect the most recycling. By the time I graduated in 2011, Penn had a fully integrated recycling program incoming students could take advantage of.
I also took an active role in student government at Penn. I served as the Vice Chair for Equity and Access as well as the Vice Chair of Finance, in which I supervised a million dollar budget. I also served as an advocate for other students with dependents, which resulted in the creation of a Parent Resource Center. For this work, I was awarded the Provost’s Citation for Exceptional Commitment to Graduate and Professional Student Life. Advocating for my fellow students awakened a passion for policy and a desire to address pertinent policy issues. I moved back to Chemung County in 2013 and I noted a number of issues I felt I could help address in a position such as county legislator. Chemung County needs to address its aging housing stock.