My father grew up on a working farm in Maine. He moved away to go to college, got a degree in civil engineering, and joined the Navy as part of the Civil Engineering Corps. My mother’s parents emigrated to Canada from Scotland, and eventually my mother ended up in the US. When I was young, she worked part-time in a Montessori pre-kinder program.
My parents were not wealthy, but my sister and I never wanted for anything important. Though we never had anything expensive, and every dollar was stretched, my parents made sure that we had a good education and that my sister and I never had to worry about food or shelter.
We moved to several different places during my childhood, following my father’s jobs with the construction companies he worked for. When I was twelve years old, we lived on Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands. It was there that I first remember understanding how fortunate I was. My parents took me to visit the neighboring island of Ebeye, where the native Marshallese lived. The quality of their housing compared to the housing of the Americans living on Kwajalein was remarkable to me, even at that young age.
Just before high school, my family moved to Vermont so that my father could find a steady job which did not require us to move around. My mother insisted that we live where the best public schools were so that my sister and I could have any doors open to us. During this time, my mother also went back to school and earned her degree in teaching English as a Second Language. She got a job teaching at a local college. Every year she brought her foreign students to our home for Thanksgiving when they couldn’t get back to see their families. In that way, I learned about cultures and perspectives different from my own.
My parents always told my sister and me that we could go to college anywhere we wanted to, and that we should not worry about the cost but that they would figure out how to make it work. I was able to go to college, and grad school, through a combination of scholarships and student loans.
After grad school, I got married and moved with my husband to St. Mary’s County, where he moved as part of the BRAC at that time. I love the area, and am so happy that we made the choice to stay and raise our family here. I have lived in southern Maryland longer than I have lived anywhere else. Recently, we discovered that we have closer ties to southern Maryland than we knew. Through genealogical research, my husband found that he had an ancestor who actually arrived in St. Mary’s on the Ark! Robert Shorely’s wife Jane Culpepper and their son followed him later, and his son then moved west, but we eventually made it back to complete the circle.
In southern Maryland, my husband and I have managed to create for our children the same kind of stable, secure life that we both enjoyed growing up. We know that we are fortunate. It seems that these days, it is becoming less and less possible for working class and middle class families to lead a secure life, let alone a comfortable life such as the one I have been fortunate enough to have. I feel very strongly that certain things ought to be considered basic rights for our working class – good public education, affordable housing, affordable healthcare, and not having to worry about feeding your family. I believe that as Delegate, I could make a real difference for many in our community.
In the twenty years I have lived in southern Maryland, I have been deeply involved in the community and in trying to improve the quality of life for people living here. When I first moved here, I worked at Historic St. Mary’s City and St. Mary’s College of Maryland. After my children were born, I worked with MOMS Club of St. Mary’s County. Then, around the time my daughter was born, I worked to open the only charter school in the tri-county area – Chesapeake Public Charter School. CPCS is a public school in St. Mary’s County, and I had to work closely with the St. Mary’s County Board of Education to get the school up and running. It is now in its 11th year, and is one of many options offered through the St. Mary’s County Public Schools system.
In 2012, I founded the Southern Maryland Youth Orchestra and Choir (SMYOC), which now serves over 100 students in the tri-county area because I wanted our talented singers and musicians to have an opportunity to learn and perform with their peers at the highest levels without having to travel out of the region to do so. When we began, we had one orchestra, and now the group has two levels of orchestra, two levels of choir in St. Mary’s, and two levels of choir in Calvert.
I currently serve as Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee for CPCS, as Vice President for SMYOC, and as Secretary for the St. Mary’s Arts Council Board. The time has come for me to become even more involved in working for the people of southern Maryland, as Delegate.
I grew up watching Sesame Street, and if you watched it, too, perhaps you remember the segment where they counted to 12 and a baker came out with trays of pies and cakes and then fell down some stairs. Every time that segment came on, I would run out of the room and hide. I hoped every time that someone would warn him about the steps or help him with his trays so that all his work on those cakes and pies would not be wasted. That empathy that I felt for the Sesame Street baker grew into my desire to work for others and to empower as many people as I can.
Working with people and organizing has always been in my blood. According to my mother, I was hard at work organizing even when I was 3 years old. One day at a public pool, I directed all the other children (ranging in ages from 7 to 12 or so) to line up by age on the side of the pool and then jump in in order when I instructed them to. To this day, my mother does not know why the kids all listened to me. I believe that my empathy and my ability to listen to and organize people will serve me well as Delegate.