You have worked extensively in the mentorship field. Why is it important to you to reach a hand out to those following in your footsteps?
Mentors made a huge difference in my life–both in high school and college. If it weren't for the adults who supported me, I would never have been able to go to college. I also feel like I learn so much from the young people I have the privilege to connect with. They bring fresh perspectives and new ideas and they challenge me to stay current. Mentoring is truly a two-way street. So I see it as paying back the many things that were done for me by amazing people through the years and for me to continue to learn and grow.
Why is accessible public education so important to you?
Opportunities are so often concentrated where there is privilege and wealth, and it's extremely important to me to help even the playing field for all kids. Public education built the American dream. It's the reason we have more mobility in our society than in some other countries. The strength of our public education system decides literal futures–who will have the chance to realize their dreams and who won't. It's an essential part of our democracy. Advocating for public schools means advocating for equity, fairness and opportunity to me. I went to public school. I sent my kids to public school. And I want public school to continue to be available and thriving for the next generation and the next one after that.
What success or activity has meant the most to you personally?
The biggest success I've had in my life has been the opportunity to be a mom, step-mom, wife and active volunteer, while still being able to have a career as an executive at Nationwide. Striking that chord of work life balance is never easy, but my kids were always able to come first and I'm proud of that. I had a wonderful partner in my husband who did so much so I was very lucky. I also had a great support system in my community. In addition, as a board member for I Know I Can, a college access nonprofit in Columbus, I feel like I really get to make an impact on kids' lives in a positive way. My high school guidance counselor, Mr. Barrett, was instrumental in helping me figure out how to go to college despite financial and personal obstacles. Being able to be part of I Know I Can's work allows me to make sure that other young people have that same level of support and care as they map out their futures.
Why has volunteering your time been such an important part of your life?
Paying it forward to others is one of the most satisfying things you can do. Volunteering in my community reminds me that we're all connected and we're not alone. Together we can always do more and when we take care of each other we all win.
What are your favorite memories from your time on the Lima campus?
My participation in the theater department was the highlight of my time on campus. I was able to play Maria in Twelfth Night and the cast and crew from that show, including several professors, were a lifeline for me during that year. I learned a lot about Shakespeare and a whole lot more about kindness and friendship in that production and I will be forever grateful for the experience.
What did Ohio State Lima’s presence in town mean to you and your future when you enrolled?
Being able to go to Ohio State Lima was critical for me. I was married very young and my options for going to college were not robust. I grew up in nearby Hardin County and I was determined to go to college. I received a scholarship to attend Ohio State Lima and the experience I had my freshman year on campus was ideal. My class sizes were small, advisors helped me find my way to Columbus where I could complete my journalism major and I had supportive friends and professors. I still very much remember Professor Joe Brandesky and the support he offered me during my time at Ohio State Lima.
I love the regional campus system and I truly believe I was more successful at main campus than I would have been if I'd gone straight there.