My first involvement in the union started in my senior year of high school when I noticed all my teachers wore red every Wednesday. After a few weeks of wondering, I decided to ask why this was the case. I found out this was a part of the Red for Ed movement the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) was organizing to end Chapter 78, which involved health benefits for educators.
As a future educator, I knew I had to step up and help them out. From that Wednesday forward, I wore red almost every Wednesday for the rest of the year.
As a college freshman, I looked for various clubs to possibly join. I stumbled upon the Seton Hall chapter of NJEA Preservice—our version of Aspiring Ed. I barely even knew what preservice meant at the time, but I knew NJEA was the same union my high school teachers were a part of, so I knew I had to join. And I did.
After joining, I was given the opportunity to attend the NJEA Convention. What an experience that was! Walking through the convention floor and into the convention hall and seeing the NJEA’s president, at the time, fire up a crowd of members left me awestruck. I wanted to do more.
I applied to be an ambassador for NJEA Preservice and was accepted. The following year I became the Preservice NJEA Relations chair, and last year I was president of our state program. I’m currently our political action co-chair.
From day one, I saw how NJEA and our preservice program are so much more than a typical organization. As members, we work together to grow our profession and to advocate for change. And the union provides its members a platform to do so.
That’s one of the great thing about NJEA’s Preservice program: No matter your interest, there's a place for you within the union—from taking on leadership roles within the organization and advocating for better state licensure requirements to supporting pro-public education candidates.
And to think that, for me, it all started with a red shirt and a desire to support my teachers.