My grandmother spent her days cleaning other people’s homes to earn a living. My mother worked long hours as an orderly in a rural hospital to support our family.
I’m no stranger to hard work. It’s all I know. And that’s why I’m prepared to make real changes for working and middle class families in Congress.
I grew up in Willisville, Arkansas, population 152. Like so many people, my home environment shaped my view of the world. It’s where I saw family members struggle to make ends meet. It’s where I overcame discrimination. And it’s where I committed myself to reject bitterness and push through the bad so I could help those whootherwise had no advocate.
Growing up in this way wasn’t easy, but it prepared me to excel later in life when all the odds were stacked against me. I worked multiple jobs to put myself through college with one goal in mind: I was going to be a teacher so I could provide students with the experience I wish I had growing up.
My 30 years of teaching English and speech allowed me to meet so many students from so many walks of life. I committed myself to providing each student with the support they needed to thrive, which often went beyond the classroom.
Sometimes that meant stocking a snack bowl out of my own pocket. Other times, that meant helping raise funds for students to receive medical attention when they couldn’t otherwise.
I love teaching. I love my students, but I realized there’s only so much I could do for them as a teacher. With this in mind, I launched my campaign for State Representative. I’ve spent nearly 20 years in the state legislature drawing on my life experiences to advocate for those in need. I turned the lessons from my own life into policies that helped working families across the state.
Growing up, I remember hearing my mother talking about the challenges facing rural hospitals. Later I watched as the hospital in my county was closed for good. I never forgot these lessons. In the state legislature, I worked to cut the uninsured rate in half by expanding Medicaid, helping low-income families access affordable care in rural areas and all across the state.
As I began my teaching career, my husband and I had to figure out how to make ends meet on my teacher’s salary alone. We spent that first summer sustaining ourselves on Beanie Weenies cooked on a hot plate. The experience of living through that stress and uncertainty instilled in me the importance of policies that help working families keep more of what they earn instead of losing it in regressive taxes.
Throughout my years in the classroom, I saw persistent gaps in my students’ learning that started at an early age. These struggles were only amplified by the time they reached my 11th grade class. I made Pre-K expansion a priority in the state legislature and helped craft what became the best Pre-K program in the nation.
My entire career has been inspired by a lifetime of experiences. I became a teacher to give students a better experience than I got in high school. I ran for state office to expand opportunities for Arkansans beyond the classroom. Now I’m running for U.S. Congress to bring my perspective formed by hard work and public service to Washington.
We need leaders who have faced real struggle themselves. We need leaders with a track-record of public service dedicated to improving the lives of others. We need change and we need it now.
My life hasn’t always been easy, but I will be forever grateful for what I’ve learned along the way. My grandmother worked tirelessly to create a better life for others. That’s the example I’ve followed my whole life. And that’s the example I’ll continue to follow in Congress.