I am also passionate about creating and working to implement positive, practical, long-term solutions to local issues that affect us all.
Here is why:
I grew up in the mountain town of Galax, Virginia. It was an idyllic childhood – walking to school, playing kick-the-can until dark, and catching crawdads in the creek that ran by my house. In high school, there were pep rallies, Homecoming, Friday Night Football, and my passion, basketball. I was really lucky because I grew up with two great parents in a close-knit community where everyone looked out for each other.
My dad was the embodiment of “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” His dad, my grandfather, was a railroad worker. There were eight kids and not much money. As a teen, my dad and his brothers slopped pigs for spending money.
Dad had no idea of going to college until a teacher pulled him aside and told him he could. He showed up at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, with a few dollars in his pocket. He worked his way through college as a janitor. Then he went on to medical school, working at the hospital morgue to pay his way and support his growing family. With hard work and determination, and the support of my mom, he completed a residency program in obstetrics at the Medical College of Virginia and began practicing in Galax.
The lesson was always implied, but never explicitly stated, that with hard work, determination and an education, anything is possible. This and the importance of serving my community are two of the greatest gifts my dad gave to me.
I became a community activist…and a mom, two roles I am passionate about. I have also been a lawyer and an advocate for children and feel fortunate to have landed in a career I love at Wake Forest University. Currently, I work hard every day so that poor kids can go to a great college and so that families that have worked hard, saved and sacrificed to send their kids to Wake Forest can keep them there even in the face of job loss, catastrophic illness or divorce. As a lawyer and through social work, I advocated for children and at-risk youth and their families, helping them navigate complex education, judicial, and social services systems. I witnessed the daily struggles of families who were trying as hard as they could for their kids but just falling short because the obstacles were so high.
Inspired by my father’s public service, I have served my Winston-Salem community in many ways.
I’m proud of being the co-founder of Piedmont Environmental Alliance, a non-profit that empowers students, builds community and protects the planet. Currently, I am serving on the Women’s Leadership Council of the United Way, a group that makes strategic investments in local education to increase the graduation rate. I have held many leadership roles at my church and currently serve as the chair of the Social Action Committee.
I’ve served several years as a Board member of Forsyth Futures, studying the challenges facing our community so that our leaders can make informed, positive changes.
I completed a term on the Public Utilities Commission, a joint commission of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, where I studied in-depth the challenging infrastructure issues facing our community. I also served for five years on the Paisley IB Magnet school PTSA, including two years as President.
Through all of my roles in the community and professionally, I’ve come to believe that everyone should have the same opportunities that I’ve had – and my father had before me. These include the opportunity to achieve prosperity, attain an education without accruing crushing debt, pursue a vocation that challenges and inspires and feel safe and secure within one’s community.
I don’t want to turn back the clock to the idealized past.
Rather, let’s invest in a future that works for everyone.