‘I knew the only way I was going to survive and get out of that situation is if I pushed on to get my education and provide a life for my daughters.’
“I came from a family of educators, specifically teachers, principals and administrators. Because of that influence, the importance of education was instilled within me at a very young age.
“The turning point of my life occurred when I became a victim of domestic violence as a young woman. He was my high school sweetheart. I knew the only way I was going to survive and get out of that situation is if I pushed on to get my education and provide a life for my daughters. That was a defining moment.
“I went on despite the abuse to finish college. Being in that situation motivated me to persevere and to push on through education, no matter what adversity I was facing in my personal life.
I always believed you’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem. So, if you want change, you have to be that change. You have to find that change within yourself.
“Moving from Queens to Long Island, I became involved with a local youth program and held many hats. It led me into running for our local school board, along with the fact that I had an autistic son. This was all new to me and I had no clue how I was going to navigate through this new challenge. I knew I was going to have to be his biggest advocate to ensure he received the proper services to thrive like any other student.
“I always believed you’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem. So, if you want change, you have to be that change. You have to find that change within yourself. While my kids were getting ready for school, I would use that time to impart words of wisdom. I would just always have some kind of one-liner to give them about life and how to survive it.
“One day, I had a principal tell me, ‘You’d be great as a school board member,’ and another person said, ‘I wish I had a mother like you,’ and that resonated. I was approached by some individuals who were willing to support my campaign. I got my clock cleaned. But someone in the community said, ‘Run again and see what happens because this community needs someone like you.’ I ran again and won.
“The hopes and dreams I have for my children are the same ones I have for everyone’s child in the district. It started with my four children and I adopted another 19,000 children.”