Our word for the year: Fearless

January 11, 2024 | Sharon Sedlar

It is hard to believe that PaFEC has been around for almost 3 years now.

It all started because I was afraid that legislation would have injured my child, taking away the educational refuge she had found after being abandoned by a harmful, dysfunctional, and inflexible education option. I reached out to 60 or 70 legislators (I lost count), sending letter after letter. Although contacting and speaking with legislators was intimidating, I was able to do it because I was fiercely protecting my child. 

Senate Education Committee testimony followed, as did the formation of WPFEC – Western Pennsylvania Families for Education Choice. Someone said to me “Sharon, why not cover the whole state? Why not just be Pennsylvania Families for Education Choice?” But I wasn’t comfortable taking such a big step. Looking back, I was fearful that no one felt the way that I did; that I had no place in the movement, much less Harrisburg policy. That was something “other people” did.

As I was forming the organization, I saw smart and passionate people in heated conversations. I was afraid to go out there, always concerned about what others would think. Partisanship, I knew too, would be poison to the cause.

Public speaking was not my forte; something I had actually avoided as much as possible since 9th-grade speech class in high school. But it was necessary. I remember one point when I became emotional during a speech and wasn’t sure how I was going to hold it together. A little boy (probably about 7 years old) down to my left looked up at me and I was able to regain my composure because he was one of the reasons for me doing this.

Over the last year alone, PaFEC has grown from just a few dozen parents to over 3,500. I’ve come to welcome opportunities to speak, listen to stories, connect with families and educators, and collaborate for the betterment of Pennsylvania’s children. There is amazing power in the parent voice!

I no longer dread public speaking (I still get nervous though!), and my passion has increased tenfold. We see family after family better the lives of their children; overcoming their own fear and following their instincts.

We can all do this! You can be that person, that resource; to listen to or to help another parent, to send a letter, to speak to a legislator, to give a speech in the Harrisburg Capitol – to help change the lives of children across Pennsylvania. Don’t let fear stop you!

So our word for the year is FEARLESS – unapologetically so.

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