Most college students feel an incredible sense of accomplishment when they reach graduation. For Heather Ward '17 VSB, finishing her senior year held an additional sense of purpose. While her classmates prepared for Commencement and graduation parties, she was campaigning for the Tredyffrin/Easttown School Board.
“I graduated three days after I won the primary,” she said. “It was an amazing few weeks, but I'm not really sure I slept in between finals and getting out the vote."
After earning the most votes in the primary last May, she went on to win a seat in November. Ward now sits on the school board governing the district where she grew up, graduating from Conestoga High School in 2013. She also holds a full-time position at Ernst & Young.
Before college, Ward was active at Conestoga and covered school board meetings for the school paper. She noticed one major blind spot: "The school board members were making decisions that affected the students, but none of them knew what it was like to be a student in our district."
With Villanova being just a drive down Lancaster Avenue from Easttown, Ward was able to stay informed and involved with local happenings in her town. It also helped her realize the value of mentorships: Her grassroots-focused campaign gave her firsthand experience with the scope of the Nova Network.
"I met some people knocking on doors who were Villanova graduates, so we were able to make that connection while talking to them," she recalled. In a local race, that can make a major difference for an unknown candidate.
Ward also asked for help throughout her campaign—a value she learned while getting her accounting degree at the Villanova School of Business.
In her new role, Ward serves as a mentor to district students, including her sister, who is a junior at Conestoga. She also volunteers with other political campaigns and groups, sharing her expertise. Ward said she's proud to support the current students in her district. She is also excited to see her peers become more active in politics, including some who are running for office. “I think everyone should run for office because you grow so much as a person," she said. "I've met so many great new friends I wouldn't have otherwise met had I not run."
Ward also noted that campaigning and serving on the board has helped her become a much stronger and more confident public speaker.
For those who want to be more directly involved in their communities and ignite change, Ward provided some advice: "Find the issue that matters most to you and find the group that lets you advocate for it. People are always looking for volunteers on campaigns and organizing. They'll welcome you with open arms."