In 2019, Dorothy Heffron was teaching 7th grade English at a public school in Chesterfield County, Virginia. Her own children attended middle school in a wealthier part of town. These two public schools were just a few miles from each other, but Heffron saw they were a world apart. Her children had far more resources, class offerings, and opportunities than the students she taught. She knew it wasn’t fair, and she wanted to change it. She decided to run for school board, drawing on three aspects of her identity: she was a public school parent, teacher, and graduate of Chesterfield County Public Schools.
“Those three lenses came together to show me a lot of opportunities that we had in our division to do better,” she explains. “But it was the matter of equity that was the main driver.”
She won her seat and became vice chair of the board. However, Heffron now observed another inequity. While the majority of public school students were people of color, all of her colleagues on the board were white, as were most regular meeting attendees. She wanted her former students to be at these meetings and eventually even hold these seats and other elected positions as soon as they were able. She decided that she needed to empower young people, particularly students of color, to be the next generation of local leaders. She became an E Pluribus Unum Fellow in order to make that vision a reality.