I grew up in Illinois, and moved back here during 2013. I’m single and have strong family ties to the 15th district. My family and their businesses have been based in Sullivan since I was two. I’ve managed one of those businesses a few times. I now am a self-employed tutor and have been since 2014.
I’ve been a leader throughout my life. Some of those efforts I mentioned earlier, for example, advocacy and prevention work with the Indiana State Department of Health in administering Ryan White Care Act prevention and care funds.
Implementing a sexual health education program in two inner city schools over multiple years and across Indiana, some under the AmeriCorps umbrella and some by my own efforts, was both rewarding and eye-opening. I even helped orchestrate MTV to travel to Indiana to film multiple stories, one of which aired on their Fight for Your Rights: Protect Yourself campaign series.
I also testified multiple times before the Indianapolis City-County Council, standing up for City Employee’s spousal benefits before marriage equality was protected. After a Human Rights Ordinance failed before the council, I helped bring to bear public attention and scrutiny to force the council to bring this measure up for a vote again and pass it, protecting the rights of sexual minorities.
I sat on a steering committee for the AIDS Walk in Indianapolis, as well as becoming involved with many other organizations that were deeply involved in community outreach. During my college years, I founded and developed Unity at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, my alma mater. Unity was the first organization to later gain official status at Rose with regard to sexual diversity. In earlier years while attending Rose, I helped connect a network between college sexual diversity groups throughout Indiana.
When I see a need, I seek to fill that need. I keep at it, learning as I go, asking a lot of questions, connecting the dots that some people didn’t even realize needed to be connected.
In 2008, I was highly concerned with the direction of the country. I became deeply involved in the Indiana Democratic Primary for President. I wanted to persuade others to sign up, knock on doors, make phone calls, and get involved, and I did just that. It was an amazing course change in my life. I was able to meet some amazingly energized and dedicated people and many public officials you probably know.
Ultimately, Indiana turned BLUE for the second time since 1940 in 2008. That’s a testament to the efforts of every volunteer throughout the state on both campaigns.
When I moved back to Illinois, I left Indiana in the hands of Governor Mike Pence. I think we know what course that took . . . a very dark and deadly one. Some of my friends are dead because they gutted the programs I had once helped to protect, an HIV outbreak spun off in the southern part of the state, and the GOP took the state on a joyride into social conservatism by gutting protections for sexual diversity. That hurt Indiana economically. All of the rights I had stood hand in hand with so many others for so many years to gain and protect were on the chopping block.
After moving back, I saw that Illinois at least seemed to be protecting rights, but state and local governance here were a real issue. That became very clear after the Quinn-Rauner election. I knew I had to get back to work, and so I did.
After moving to Charleston, I got involved with the Coles County Democratic Party. They asked me to stand up and become a Precinct Committee Person. I said, absolutely. I volunteered in the HQ, knocked on doors, and worked the phones. It was great! And, we all know what happened in 2016.
After much soul-searching and much prodding by friends and family, I decided I could no longer just sit on the sidelines. It was time to do something on a much larger scale.
I remembered being blessed to know such stewards and fighters of and for the people like in Indianapolis, Representative Julia Carson. She said she would keep fighting until she couldn’t . . . and she did just that.
I hope to live up to that sort of mantra and that sort of record. I’ve had to fight back from amazing setbacks over the course of my life. I’ve comeback every single time more strong, more dedicated to others, and with a heart more passionate about making a difference.
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