A Day in the Life of A Senator: Senior Expo Edition

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Bianca Pate, Copy Editor, Online Editor, Assistant Editor in Chief

Walking into the Senior Expo at Hempfield Area High School, I felt as if I was entering a college fair 40 years into my future. Senator Kim Ward hosted the annual Senior Expo on October 19. Six members of the Greater Latrobe’s National Honor Society alongside students from Derry Area High School and Greensburg Salem High school volunteered the day to help Senator Ward run this event. As one of these individuals, I was granted the opportunity to meet Senator Ward. I not only learned from her what the Senior Expo is, but I also learned what a day in the life of a senator is like.

The Senior Expo is an event that shows senior citizens the vast amount of programs that are at their service. Senator Ward explains, “It’s a good chance for all of the seniors to get out all in one place and show them all of the services that are available to them.” Senator Ward and her crew set the date for this event in the summer and started planning for it in January, way before the event actually took place. Many would think that the Senate would be responsible for the costs of the Senior Expo, but according to Senator Ward, “They [ the Senate] don’t pay for it. We have to raise the money to pay. We don’t use government money.” Senator Ward represents about a quarter million people of Pennsylvania and explained how she has to make sure that information on the Senior Expo is sent to everyone, voter or not, as she represents everyone.

To many, being a senator may seem like an easy occupation. We are often blind to reality, and cannot imagine the difficult tasks a senator undergoes on a daily basis. Senator Ward explains, “I think when you are in Harrisburg is the hardest part. You are trying to get something done; we have a duty to work together no matter what party we are. The House wants to do one thing and the Senate wants [the opposite]. The governor will want something that neither of us want, so you try to compromise because he gets a say.” Compromising is a skill that many are unable to obtain, for it is never easy to agree on claims against your own. As Senator Ward describes, “That is what I think people don’t see. I never beat up my colleagues; we have to work together.”

Senator Ward elucidated how when the House, the Senate, and the Governor are unable to agree on something, it is the people that get affected, and she is who gets blamed. She describes, “The folks who depend on that money are the victims when we can’t agree on something. We have social service victims. We have child care centers. We have schools. Those are victims. Senator Ward recalled a time where she personally was criticized: “I remember being in a parade in 2015 and people yelling at me [because the budget was late].”

As a senator, one has the ability to change the lives of many. Senator Ward explains her favorite part as a senator. She said, “We are able to help people on a day to day basis. It’s not like things that you see. It’s not the big bills that we pass, but it is the people that come in and say that your office helped them.”

Contrary to popular belief, one does not have to have a background in law or politics to be a senator. Senator Ward elaborates on her “former life as a respiratory therapist” before being a senator: “Back when I graduated from high school in 1974, I knew I was going to go into healthcare.” Although the program was only two years old, Senator Ward decided to pursue a career as a respiratory therapist. She explained, “I wanted a job that could support my family; I didn’t want to have any struggles.” There were only two schools in the country that had the program Senator Ward seeked, so she settled for the Community College of Allegheny County. She later advanced to Pitt for health related professions after she finished her program and met her husband who is now a doctor. They both moved to Nashville, and Senator Ward proceeded to go to Middle Tennessee State University. Although Senator Ward was content with her life as a respiratory therapist she claims, “I always wanted to be a lawyer, and never got to be, but somewhere in the twist of my life, I make laws. “

Senator Ward also presented words of advice as she reminisced her run for senator: “It was an ugly nine week race in a district that was 65% registered Democrat. I was thinking, ‘What am I doing, I am going to lose.’ I was 52, and I thought, ‘Why not?’ Someday you are going to be 80 and think ‘I should have tried that.’ You just can’t be afraid to lose. It is not great to lose, but you can’t be afraid to lose.”

Within the short day, I discovered who Senator Ward truly is. She is an individual who cares for all of her constituents both young and old. That day, she helped the elderly plan their future and provided students with an experience that will shape the course of their lives. 40 years from now, I will be able to reminisce the impact Senator Ward has had on me as I walk through the doors of Hempfield Area High school and attend the Senior Expo.