All I Ever Needed to Know about Civic Engagement I Learned From my Mom

I’ve been listening to a lot of Podcasts lately.  I particularly like the podcasts about successful people where they share details about their lives that led to success or mastery in their field. I like Tim Ferriss, Spartan Up and just found Finding Mastery and am currently listening to a fantastic conversation with Amy Hood. In many of these podcasts, people reflect on the role that his / her Mom / Mom-like figure played in guiding them to success. And there is no question that my Mom’s presence and modeling led me to value civic engagement and the work I do today.

My mom taught me to actively engage with civic organizations. She never just attended a meeting or sat on the sidelines. She engaged and was able to influence outcomes. As a passionate supporter of the Arts, my mom ran the Cultural Arts program at my school to make sure arts programming was a part of our education. And as a professional development / fund raising officer for a non-profit, she supports the Camp where she met my dad, I attended and now my sons go with fund raising advice and guidance. By actively engaging in important organizations, I feel the benefits as much as I contribute, and often even more!

We set out to ask some of the phenomenal civic leaders in Boston to share the lessons they learned from their moms and we received an amazing response. We hope these stories inspire and empower you the same way they have affected us:

Teaching and education has always been a passion and priority for my mom. She was a teacher in England when I was born. She was our advocate in school from pre school to college. And when she stopped teaching, she become a volunteer tutor and a mentor at local schools. She took a year to complete a program on teaching children with dyslexia, and volunteered her time to work with children after school that needed that extra help to complete their homework. We all know how important it is to get a good education (and she raised three kids that all got engineering degrees), but what she showed me is that enabling someone to get a good education, is about patience and encouragement, one day at a time, year after year. Thank you mom.

— Elizabeth Bruce, Universities, Technology and Civic Engagement at Microsoft

When my parents divorced, my brother was 8 and I was 6 years old. We watched our my beautiful mother Linda work three jobs: one minimum wage and two waitress jobs. All of her time and energy went into making a living wage for our family. She didn’t have time to get involved in the PTO, town meetings, or weekend hackathons, and any time she had to spend to interact with city hall or school, meant time off and money lost.

It is for single parents like Linda that I think about first when creating or transforming the way we deliver public service to our constituents. Happy Mothers Day to Linda and the busy moms!

Pictured is Sam, Aunt Robyn (another strong female role model), and Linda (right)

— Samantha Hammar, Director of Digital Engagement, Office of the Treasury, Commonwealth of Massachusetts

My mom has always been curious about life and has been a life-long learner. She has always encouraged me to get beneath the surface, to chase those things I found interesting, to understand the “why” behind the world. She truly shaped my thought process, in that I try to understand the systems, the structures, and the “why” in my world. I think this is why I find the civic technology space so interesting—even though we use the lens of technology in the civic space, it’s ultimately about supporting society and the human condition.

— Cathy Wissink, Senior Director, Technology & Civic Engagement at Microsoft

I’m fortunate to come from a family of strong, socially-minded women on both sides of my family, and have always been encouraged to give back to and engage with my community. On my mom’s side, she and my gran have been role models for me my entire life. After raising her children, my gran returned to work — serving as a magistrate for many years and advocating for the rights of her community members. My mom has always been involved in organizations for education, arts, and the community, and even started a company while I was in high school. They’ve both served as constant role models for me, and continue to remind me of the importance of dedicating my time and energy to causes that are important to me on a daily basis.

— Becky Donner, Director, District Hall

My civic tech work is shaped by what my mother showed me about collaboration and picking your projects. Whether as a leader or team member, she believes strongly in asking questions, listening, and learning from everyone in the room, as that’s how you figure out what’s important and can select an effective path forward. She also shows me how valuable it can be to carefully choose what you give your time and resources to (yes, my mother taught me how to say no!). She has shown me how to go all in on the institutions and issues–in her case, from hospice care to reproductive rights–that make a difference to individuals’ lives and across communities. Civic tech and engagement is about thinking beyond what you alone might know or like or need, and I am lucky to have seen from my mother how to think and live that philosophy.

— Elizabeth Grossman, Director of Civic Projects, Technology and Civic Engagement Group at Microsoft

My mother taught me the value of authenticity, honesty, and putting yourself in other people’s shoes. These are core values of civic engagement, and lead to things like user-centric design, transparency, and collaboration being the guiding principles of the civic tech community.

— Annmarie Levins, General Manager,Technology and Civic Engagement Group at Microsoft

My mom is an immigrant woman who was raised in a conservative cultural environment where women are not always encouraged to be outspoken. Once my mom had her own three daughters, she focused on raising us with the opportunities she didn’t have in her life. By bringing us to a mosque that prioritized civic duties, community service, interfaith work and social justice and actively volunteering herself during events like the Walk Against Hunger, protesting the “travel ban”, and cooking for the Mercy Shelter, my mother showed me the importance of showing up and engaging with the community. I was proud of my mom for also supporting my education and focus on Political Science and Human Rights. Most notably, I am proud of my mom for raising her hand to volunteer in her community despite language barriers.

— Sumia Hassain, Partnerships Development Coordinator, MassChallenge Boston

For my whole life, I’ve watched my mom work tirelessly to support the communities around her, whether through planning events for our schools, knocking on doors for local politicians, or encouraging us to get involved with nonprofit work.

More recently, I’ve been blessed to watch her transition into what is undoubtedly her dream job as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. She works constantly and tirelessly around the clock to make individuals’ lives better — whether it be through 7am weekend phone calls to constituents, attending events morning and night, or filing bills in the House to benefit underrepresented individuals within the State.

My mom has a ‘can-do’ attitude second-to-none, and the beauty of it all is that she expects nothing in return. If I can embody even 1% of the dedication she has to making the lives of EVERYONE around her better, regardless of it benefiting her, I will be more selfless, caring, and helpful than most who walk the earth. I love you, Mom, and am so proud to be your daughter!

— Kara Cronin, Partnerships Account Manager, MassChallenge Boston

Share on:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *