When Yolian Ogbu and Hillary Shah were finishing up their high school careers at Lone Star High School in Frisco, Texas, they each had several options to pursue their college careers, Yolian planning to double major in Political Science and Communications and Hillary in Political Science and Economics. Both chose to attend the University of North Texas, because it was affordable and close to family, but they also ended up with a home and a community. A Sophomore and Freshman respectively, Yolian and Hillary needed little time on campus to recognize the blatant shortcomings of the organization that is meant to maintain that home and community through student representation: The Student Government Association. With the help of their mentor, Misaki Collins, the duo launched a historic and dynamic run; Yolian for President and Hillary for Vice President.
The life of Helen Keller is a widely known story in the United States, commonly referred to in conversations of resiliency, or on topics of overcoming difficult situations. Books such as The Miracle Worker by William Gibson, The World I Live In by Helen Keller, or Teacher: Anne Sullivan Macy by Helen Keller tell the story of a deaf and blind girl who, despite her disabilities, attended Radcliffe College of Harvard University in 1900 and became a lecturer. Her story of resiliency exceeds time and culture: in an eighth grade classroom in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the successes of Helen Keller touched a young Regina Montoya in a remarkable way.
If you are looking for an inspiring story spurred from within generation Z, enter Cassandra Hernandez. She is only a junior in high school yet she has already advocated for critical education policy, attended protests in her community, and stood as a voice against gentrification in her Oak Cliff neighborhood. As our youngest feature subject thus far, we hope you are as impressed as we are, here at Lone Star Parity Project. Meet our Gen Z hero: Cassandra.
Lillian Salerno, one of nine children, is an entrepreneur, lawyer, and former appointee of the Obama administration, has managed to leave her own mark on the Texas community. In the most recent stage of her long and successful career, Lillian ran for the United States House of Representatives for Texas District 32, which is mostly the northern and eastern part of Dallas county. After making it to the democratic primary runoff in May 2018, Lillian was defeated by Colin Allred. Her loss, though, didn’t stop her from continuing to fight for her fellow Texans. Lillian started Pod Bless Texas, an irreverent and conversational podcast showcasing the behind-the-scenes of Texas politics by giving voice to passionate Texas politicians. “I feel so strongly that Texas is sitting here being one of the reasons whether this country moves in the right direction or not,” she said. “I happen to be in this position where I know a few things that might help… [and] I want to do everything I can to help during this critical period.”
Judge Kathy Gwinn is the Justice of the Peace (JP) for Precinct 3 of Hood County located in the small town of Granbury, Texas. In 2014, after making it through the Republican primaries, Gwinn won a runoff election with just over 60% of the vote. After serving her first four-year term, she was re-elected this year uncontested.
Susan Long is the founder of How She Got Here, a podcast of “conversations with everyday extraordinary women.” Through her podcast, Susan has uncovered a deep-seated interest in women’s empowerment and leadership, hoping to transform society’s vision of women for generations to come. She wants to help women in the United States, especially those who listen to her podcast, push past the simple opportunity to “be at the table” and instead recognize that women have a right to be at the table. It is through her podcast that Susan recognized the need to continue sharing the stories of women to bring equilibrium to the table of leadership – especially in politics.
The word “diaspora” is defined by Merriam- Webster Dictionary as “the movement, migration, or scattering of a people away from an established or ancestral homeland”. In the world of literature, diaspora often explains a nostalgia for the past and a longing for what once was. To be removed from what is familiar and transplanted into a new life can be terrifying, especially when the only friend you have is fear of the uncertain life ahead. It takes bravery and confidence to confront your individual diaspora, and Sana Syed’s story of leaving behind what is familiar to venture into a foreign life produces pure inspiration. Sana experienced what she calls a “unique life.” With immigrant parents from Pakistan, Sana often felt a tug between her parents’ heritage and the culture of the United States. Her extended family also frequently experienced these dilemmas because Sana’s father encouraged his family to move to the United States, support their financial burdens until accustomed to their new lives, and anchor their family to the American Dream. Unfortunately, Sana entered the cycle domestic violence at a young age that was later repeated in her adult life. The story of Sana’s journey through domestic violence is not meant as a plea for sympathy, but as a comfort to others: the diaspora that Sana has endured is the motivation for her work to prevent and end domestic violence.
Jennifer Gates, Dallas City Councilwoman and Registered Nurse, grew up in a family focused on civic engagement and participation. Growing up, Gates witnesses the participation in service and politics. Both her mother and father focused on giving back to the community through civic engagement and philanthropic opportunities. Gates worked as a pediatric nurse before she saw an opportunity and seized it to take a more active role in her community.
It was a long night in November watching the defeat of her candidate in a U.S. congressional election, where suddenly Terri Broussard Williams was out of a job. As the spokesperson for this senatorial candidate, as soon as the night ended Williams was out of work with no direction of what she would be doing the following days and weeks. That’s when a mentor said she should be a lobbyist. Her background in journalism and tv equipped her with the communication skills of a qualified lobbyist - Terri should give it a try. A born and bred Louisiana girl was thrown into the world of legislation, navigating the ecosystem of a capitol building with no prior experience in her pocket. Through the encouragement of others, and by the legacy and teachings of her parents and grandparents, Terri’s fundamental perseverance to start fires in communities, legislative floors, and college campuses continues to challenge the mediocrity that lives there.
Kathie Tovo, current Mayor Pro Tem representing City Council District 9 in Austin, Texas, did not grow up envisioning herself working in politics. Kathie did not have politically involved parents, so it wasn’t until attending college that she began to figure out her political views. Those views turned out to be different than her family’s. Nevertheless, she felt free to engage in political activities on campus, such as rallies. After college, she guided her career toward teaching writing and interdisciplinary studies at the college level and working at Humanities Texas. In her spare time, she began getting involved in neighborhood affairs and became vice president and president of different neighborhood associations. Her passion for the issues she was dealing with began to grow, and even though Kathie had not explicitly decided to begin a career in politics, she decided to let her new-found passion guide her towards a path that would enable her to keep working on them. This is what led her to run for City Council member and thus begin her career in politics.