A radical with a dream of a better future but no gameplan.
I started out in politics at 18-years-old leading a band of misfits. Our goal was simple: start a political revolution. We would meet in the living room of my rundown single wide mobile home and talk about how we were going to do something about the social problems we all dealt with growing up.
All of us were society’s Forgotten Abouts and Disregardeds, the kids who went out too much because they had parents who didn’t care or know enough to see how they were doing. In our rebel headquarters out in the middle of nowhere Illinois, we saw visions of a tomorrow where people cared, folks were given a second chance, and the have-nots didn’t have to suffer.
Of course, that didn’t last long. None of us knew anything, especially about politics. So, I realized if I wanted to make a real impact, I needed to get more experience and education. This led me to volunteer on multiple campaigns, seek out mentorship, apply for an internship with the local chamber of commerce, and run for office myself. It was hard. It was confusing. And it was certainly a long journey. During my three years in community college, I fought hard to do the right thing.
Most important to my development at the time was the realization that for someone with less determination and self-belief, making a difference would have seemed impossible. It inspired me to help empower others. I petitioned to start a student group called Youth in Activism, I developed three nonprofits with two teams whose missions were to simplify politics and encourage political bipartisanship, and I continued interning because I understood that my success depended on getting good professional experience.
A professional with a clear vision, goals, and objectives.
I am earning a master’s degree in public administration with a specialization in local government management. While completing my degree I am helping lead the Northern Illinois University International City Manager’s Association Student Chapter, the only public administration student organization on the university’s campus. In my role, I’m advocating for a culture of authenticity, inclusion, and joy in a culture that can be daunting, exclusive, and competitive.
I’m also serving a rural suburb of Madison, Wisconsin, championing new policies related to citizen engagement, business retention and expansion, employee recognition, and professional project management. At the same time, I’m working to help transform the community from a traditionally rural culture to one that is up-and-coming and on the leading edge of technology.
Over the past six years, I’ve come to three life-defining conclusions:
First, how we interpret the world is defined by the communities in our lives. It’s not from the media that most people define their worldviews, it’s their friends, families, neighbors, the quality of the pavement down their streets, the friendliness of their local police officers, and their local economy.
Second, average people are still relatively powerless to change their communities in meaningful ways. Sure, it’s possible to put out signs in yards or to come to town hall meetings, but if people want to make a long-term impact, it’s just too difficult. The vast majority can’t get involved. They’re too busy getting by, worrying about their family, and often scared about things like getting sick because they can’t afford quality health care.
And even if they did find the time, it’s doubtful they would have the ability to effect change in local politics because they don’t have enough foundational knowledge to navigate political institutions.
And lastly, the culture of community leadership needs to change. If the vast majority of people can’t get involved meaningfully, then it’s up to the people in power to take responsibility. They need to understand the crucial importance of their role in their community and change the institutions they operate in to make them more inclusive. People must realize that change isn’t coming from their state governor, Congress, or the president. The world is shaped by people like us, average folks, doing mundane stuff.
My career objective is to be a scholar, professor, and consultant in the field of public administration after earning a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Public Affairs.
I desire this outcome because my extreme passion for democracy and the power of the communities in our lives compels to want to make a positive impact in as many places as I can.
As a scholar, I hope to research vital topics related to the well-being of the United States – things like social capital, citizen engagement, and how we process information.
As a professor, I hope to impress upon the minds of the next generation of public sector leaders the immense responsibility they have and give them the tools necessary to lead ethically.
And as a consultant, I hope to leverage my patiently acquired expertise to help struggling and rural communities remain competitive despite their dearth of resources, innovate in ways that build community capacity, and grow inclusively.