Hillman Entrepreneurs Student Lenace Edwards Wants to Be the Voice for Those Who Have None

Lenace Edwards

Talk to Hillman Entrepreneurs Program student Lenace Edwards for five minutes and you will learn that she aspires to be a politician. Talk to her longer and you want to write her into your next political ballot.

Lenace wants nothing less than to be the voice for those who have none. She’s seen first-hand how people can slip through the cracks.

In 2005, she left New Orleans, La., with her mother and brother just before Hurricane Katrina made landfall. Here in Maryland, she watched in horror as the most destructive and costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States wreaked havoc upon her hometown.

“I saw people standing on the roofs of houses holding up “help me” signs. My dad and brother were trapped in water and only escaped because they hopped on an empty boat that was floating down the street.

“The local, state and federal government failed our community. Those who were hurt the hardest didn’t have a voice. I want to make sure that never happens again. I want to stand up and fight for those who do not have a voice.”

She already has.

Lenace’s mom, Trinace Edwards, is without healthcare. She has a lemon-sized tumor behind her optic nerve. It has not been treated.

Thanks to Lenace, Trinace’s voice was heard through none other than President Barrack Obama, during his Rose Garden remarks on October 1, 2013. Both Lenace and Trinace were there.

Lenace Edwards at the White House

Lenace Edwards, in the red jacket on the left-hand side, with President Barrack Obama in the White House.

“Trinace Edwards was laid off from her job a year ago today,” said President Obama. “Six months ago, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  She couldn’t afford insurance on the individual market, so she hasn’t received treatment yet.  Her daughter Lenace, a student at the University of Maryland, is considering dropping out of school to help pay her mom’s bills.  Well, starting today, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Trinace can get covered without forcing her daughter to give up on her dreams.”

Lenace’s dreams are big. The Hillman Entrepreneurs Program has helped her start to realize them.

Earlier this year, she was offered an unpaid internship with Maryland Delegate and gubernatorial candidate Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery). A full-time student and single mother, Lenace could not afford to work for free. Through the Hillman Entrepreneurs Program scholarship fund, she was able to take the internship and continue supporting her family.

“With so many other responsibilities, I debated whether or not it was feasible for me to accept an un-paid internship no matter how amazing I knew it would be. The Hillman program eased my worries by providing me with a stipend.”

Lenace now works for Mizeur as a political assistant and field organizer. She helps find and organize events and house meetings for Mizeur to go to, and serves as president of Terps for Mizeur.

“She’s a politician that stands on principle, and that’s not common,” said Lenace. “We have politicians that just go with the flow of things. She’s one who hears your concerns and does something about it. It’s not about the glitz and glamour. She’s there to do the work.”

As is Lenace. In 2012, she was chosen as a Rawlings Undergraduate Leadership Fellow, a highly selective honors program through UMD’s School of Public Policy that connects students with a desire to serve the public with elected officials and nonprofit leaders. She is also an active member of Phi Alpha Delta, the largest co-ed professional law fraternity in the U.S.

As a commuter, Lenace credits the Hillman Entrepreneurs Program with helping her engage at the university.

“I would have had a tougher time being an off-campus student, coming in, taking classes and then leaving without the Hillman Program,” said Lenace. “Having our own place on campus, the Hillman lounge, is critical. It helps us be more connected on campus.”

The friendships she’s created through the Hillman Entrepreneurs Programs have helped as well.

“We can sit in the Hillman lounge and I can ask [fellow Hillman student] Sidra [Malik] how to word something on my resume. We help each other academically and professionally. I am honored to be surrounded by a group of amazing individuals who are constantly encouraging and supporting me in all of my endeavors. I am indebted to the Hillman program.”

Now in her senior year at UMD, Lenace sees herself in the future working with Mizeur or attending law school. Politics, to her, are the key.

“The entire time I was at the White House I had this overwhelming feeling of belonging,” said Lenace. “It proved to me that politics is where I want to be.”

With her there, perhaps those without a voice, those who need it most, will be heard through Lenace.

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