The experiences at Merrimack that led Helena to her career reflect her approach to professional development – at times non-linear and sometimes accidental.
Entering Merrimack Helena did not know what her major would be. However, after taking an introduction to Political Science class she became inspired to declare a Political Science major. Talking about community impact and power building sparked her interest that was already there from the 2008 elections.
Through her major, Helena got her first internship in state politics at the Massachusetts State House for the Caucus of Women Legislators. From that internship she was hooked on creating change at a state and local level.
Post-graduation she went to graduate school for Public Administration part-time while working full-time at a youth focused nonprofit doing operations and finance. The plan was to get some experience at a flexible job before graduating and getting a state government position.
This was the plan, but this is not what happened. After her first year at graduate school and at her job, she realized that her plan didn’t fit with what she was learning. She realized that she wanted to be a policy influencer, not someone who is on the administering end.
Currently Helena serves in two professional roles. She direct Teens Leading the Way – a statewide youth led coalition that focuses on creating lasting change through policy making. In this role, she coaches young people (16-24) on their policymaking skills from selection of a campaign, stewarding legislators as co-sponsors, meeting facilitation, and coalition building.
Her other role is that she is a Partner at Vertive Campaigns, a campaign consulting firm that she co-owns with a colleague that she met through intersectional feminist organizing. Their focus is on working with “non-traditional” candidates, aka young people, people of color, women, and folks with other marginalized identities. They coach candidates and their staff on how to effectively execute their communications, fundraising, and grassroots organizing strategies.
How did your experience at Merrimack help you as a professional?
My experience at Merrimack shaped me as a professional because of the liberal arts approach. Having to take an array of different classes from different fields allowed me to become flexible and like a “sponge” in my approach. By this I mean I became open to approaching new things in and outside of my field with a growth mindset.
What is the best advice you could give current Merrimack students?
Don’t be afraid to pursue professional endeavors outside of your field. The reason that I say this is because students are often put in boxes. They’re told messaging like ‘Stick to your path or stay in your lane’. ‘Engineers can’t be political organizers’. ‘Organizers can’t be scientists.’ You get the message! Don’t limit yourself because you never know what you can achieve just by trying something out!
What is your favorite Merrimack memory?
I don’t do favorites! However, I will say that my favorite series of memories is doing plays and musicals with the OnStagers. It was the true amalgamation of a liberal arts experience as students from all majors would come together to act and sing.
Shout out to Fr. Rick and Kathleen Sills!