The 35U began with a vision to inspire the leaders of tomorrow by telling them about the leaders of today. With millions of people involved in government, education, business and community service across the country, it sometimes may be hard for the 35U to connect to leaders individually simply due to an age barrier. The 35U to us is any young adult from the ages of 18-35 in this country. These individuals have a voice – they can vote, serve, and most importantly, they can make a difference for future generations.

Today’s Q&A feature is Edward C. Ford Jr, Middletown, Connecticut Board of Education Member and Youth Minister. Edward was elected to the Middletown, CT Board of Education in November of 2017. At 20 years old, this election made him one of the youngest elected officials in the state of Connecticut. Edward is also one of the youngest Black Republicans to serve in elected office in CT. He was featured on Fox News in November of 2017 for this accomplishment. Edward’s main areas of focus in his role as a Board of Education member are working with his colleagues to shrink their district’s academic achievement gap; improve early childhood education and make sure students are college and career ready when they graduate from high school. Edward is a Licensed Minister and teaches at Bread of Life Evangelistic Ministries in Waterbury, CT where his parents are the Pastors. Edward is a Junior in college attending Central Connecticut State University where he is majoring in Psychology. So far, he has received an Associate’s degree from Middlesex Community College in Middletown, CT. He desires to continue his education in graduate school, and even go beyond in order to obtain a Doctorate degree in a field of his interest. Edward is also a Commissioner on the Affirmative Action Monitoring Committee; the Human Relations Committee; and a member of the Republican Town Committee in Middletown, CT. Edward serves as the Vice President of his High School Senior class and has served in student government during his first year of college at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, RI. Edward has a passion for public service; for helping people and making a positive difference in the lives of others. We caught up with Edward to find out what leadership means to him and what advice he would give to future leaders.

Why did you choose this career path?

I chose to run for office because I wanted to make a positive difference in my community. I wanted to give back and be a part of the process of making things better in Middletown, CT. There are students who are going through issues that my peers and I faced just a few short years ago. I believe in our students and in our community. I believe we can better prepare our youth for the real world and for the careers they’ll have ahead. I sincerely believe that we can improve education and our city as a whole if we work together to do so.

Who inspired you to get involved?

I believe public service is a calling for me. I truly have a desire to serve with passion and integrity. I believe God placed a passion in my heart to help others, and so I felt the need to get involved and effect positive change in the lives of other people. Along my journey I desired to inspire others to get involved as well who wanted to make a positive difference. When running for the Board of Education my campaign slogan was Desire to Inspire. This slogan was a call to others to mobilize and make a positive impact in our community.

How do you define a leader?

A true leader is someone who inspires others. It’s not someone who just gives instruction but someone who shows the way by example. A good leader helps others to become the best versions of themselves. Leaders are selfless and compassionate. They lead with love and integrity toward better outcomes. That is what I believe a leader is.

What projects are you currently involved with in the community that engages the next generation of leaders?

I am currently working with other community members on better ways to improve equity in our community. I believe that if we can work to make our community more equitable today then it will set a better foundation for the generation of tomorrow to build upon.

What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders who want to get involved?

If you desire to make a positive impact in your community then go forward and do it. Age is just a number; don’t allow it to define the level of impact you can have in the lives of others. There’s always someone out there who needs your help. Give back, lend a helping hand and make a positive change.