If you look back at my childhood, in many ways it would seem unlikely that I would be running for city council in a wealthy suburb of Washington, D.C. My path was unique and required a community of caring individuals who encouraged and supported me along the way.
My grandparents immigrated from central Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. Although my mother excelled academically, she had to leave high school to support her family by working in a factory in New Jersey. My dad also didn’t finish high school so he always told me that I would go to college, and I believed him. I studied hard in the honors program and was active in school and church activities. I often took a bus to the library uptown to research colleges because I was determined to fulfill my parents’ dream for my life. I was given the opportunity when Gettysburg College awarded me a substantial scholarship to attend.
My friends and I grew up outside the Lincoln Tunnel in New York City and most of us were first or second-generation Americans. Our families had come to the United States seeking a better life and every opportunity we were given to study and participate in the community was a chance at achieving the American Dream. I know what it means to overcome economic challenges and I believe everyone deserves access to equal opportunity. My life experience showed me that elected officials play a critical role in tearing down barriers and creating pathways for citizens. I am compelled to work hard for everyone in my community and create opportunities for them to reach their fullest potential.
My professional and volunteer experience has prepared me for this role, and I am well positioned to take on the challenges that we face in Rockville. As the executive director of a nonprofit organization that provides legal services to immigrants, we help them navigate a system that is far more complex and full of obstacles than when my grandparents entered Ellis Island. During the Recession, I chaired the city commission to ensure that our local caregiver organizations provided a strong safety net for the families who found themselves needing financial help for the first time in their lives. I’ve also worked for homeless service providers and a nonprofit affordable housing developer to provide more security to vulnerable communities. I’m determined to stand up to current officeholders who have consistently voted against every potential affordable housing project in our community. I plan to expand our housing and build transit-based communities that take people out of their vehicles and onto streets that are safe for pedestrians and cyclists.
My training with Emerge Maryland has also been critical in my campaign for office. The program gave me an entirely new community of support that has cheered me on at every turn. My Emerge sisters and I stay connected and share updates, advice, and inspiration any time I need it. I know that my goals are worthwhile because I was given the cutting-edge tools I need to win this election. It has been challenging to do for the last few months, but I remember my training and get back at it!
For 25 years, I’ve paid attention and often blogged or reported on the issues that Rockville residents face. Now that my youngest child has gone to college, it’s my chance to step up and use my knowledge and commitment to benefit everyone in our city. If we are to thrive, we must offer people the chance to lift themselves up with the resources they need to live well.
Just as my father gave me the confidence that I could go to college, Emerge Maryland has given me the confidence that I can run for political office. The most important part of giving someone an opportunity is to make them believe that they can do it.