When Edward Ford Jr. declared his intention to run for the Middletown Board of Education, he knew it was an unprecedented move. He is, after all, a junior in college.
Still, the 20-year-old Psychology major took to the campaign trail, knocking on doors, attending marches, visiting churches, and cheering at football games in an effort to get to know his future constituency.
He won his seat on the Board of Education on Nov. 9.
“It’s a beautiful thing being able to talk with people and get back to having conversations in general,” Ford says.
Ford’s achievement made headlines because he and his best friend, Tyrell Brown, a newly minted Town Council member, are believed to be the youngest African-American Republicans to win political seats in Connecticut, a state that leans heavily Democratic.
“Most of the time we’re discouraged as young people to run for anything,” Ford states, “but we need to go straight to the plate. We need a seat at the table, a voice — that youthful vibrant voice.”
Ford will use that voice to advocate for an issue that’s personal to him: the achievement gap.
“A lot of minority students are not excelling at the level that we know they can,” he says. “I have to devote myself to working on issues as critical as that.”
Ford’s achievements, poise, and political goals make it easy to forget that he is an undergraduate.
“My psychological studies have helped me gain knowledge and wisdom in areas where I’m trying to understand people — why people behave in certain ways. In politics it’s important to know some psychological history because it will definitely provide context to a lot of things you see: what are the thought processes or theories behind issues? Instead of taking things at face value, things are not always as they seem, we learn in psychology.”
Ford integrates his studies at Central, his religious life, and his new political duties by improving his time management skills. “Things fit into blocks or else they get disorganized. I don’t stray from those blocks. My life is totally changed,” he explains.
Minister Thomas Holman, a minister at Ford’s church, Bread of Life Evangelical in Waterbury, says, “Since he’s been campaigning, I’ve seen him become more focused when it comes to the little things. He’s understood that this responsibility doesn’t in any way diminish his other responsibilities; as his plate gets full, other things don’t fall to the wayside.”
Faith is important to Ford, and it helped propel him onto the campaign trail.
“When I’ve been in places where I don’t feel I have the confidence to do something, I think of the famous verse in Philippians 4:13, which basically says go forward and accomplish what you know you can do. You have the strength to do it. You have the passion to do it. You have the will to do it. Don’t stop yourself, go forward and accomplish it.”
With his education, faith, and the experience he will gain on the Middletown school board, Ford sees the future as limitless.
“I would love to serve in the state legislature, Congress … I could even end up in the White House,” he says with a smile. “Right now, I’m very glad I’m serving in the position I’m holding … a position that three years ago I would never have thought of.”