My DEI Story: India Heckstall
Wednesday, June 24, 2020
By India Heckstall, Project Management Associate at Path Forward Consulting
My DEI story is that I am a first-generation college graduate who dreamed of pursuing a career in law and government. As an only child and grandchild, I am the center of attention in my immediate family. My parents and grandparents always supported me whether it was playing soccer, taking swimming lessons, or learning to play the piano. They were always there pushing me to practice and become the best I could be. In addition, academics was very important to my family. Throughout most of my academic career, I was one of maybe five students of color in the classroom. We often felt the pressure to succeed and do better than our White peers. Our parents expected nothing but the best from us, which put a lot of pressure on myself and other students of color. My parents were very engaged in my schoolwork where they would regularly meet and/or email my teachers asking how I was doing in their course. My parents would also talk with me about potential career opportunities and what I would need to do to achieve my goals. My parents' support and encouragement helped me get through college, boosted my confidence to pursue opportunities that I did not think was possible, and provided me with courage to move hours away from home to pursue a career in Washington, D.C. Even though I do not live close to home, I know that my parents still have my back and will continue to support me through the next phase of my life.
In college, my community of support was the faculty and staff in the Department of Political Science, History, and Criminal Justice at Campbell University. They were essential to my postsecondary education success by helping me craft my academic goals and providing me with the tools I needed to succeed post-graduation. During my sophomore year, I decided that I did not want to pursue law school anymore, but I knew I wanted to earn a graduate degree. I did not know what other opportunities were out there, but my academic advisor Dr. John Mero encouraged me to pursue a masters in public policy because he knew I was interested in doing federal policy work. Because of his support, along with other faculty members, I was accepted into multiple graduate programs that offered me graduate scholarships. In addition, the faculty and staff at Campbell University cared a lot about how students were doing outside of the class. For me, Dr. Jaclyn Stanke was always a listening ear. During my college journey, I found out that my grandfather had cancer. I did not take the news very well and it was reflected in my studies. Dr. Stanke and many others helped me cope with the news and provided encouraging words when I needed it the most. Until this day, the faculty and staff at Campbell University are like family to me.
Now that I am in Washington, D.C., I still have a community of supporters who I can talk to about personal and professional matters. My community of supporters are there to hold me accountable and continue to push me to be better each and every day. If it wasn’t for folks constantly looking out for me and wanting to help, I don't know where I would be today. The encouragement and opportunities from my community have pushed me to give back to others whether that is connecting them to someone within my network or encouraging other people of color to enter into the government relations field.
Everyone has a DEI story that makes us who we are. If you’re interested in learning more, join us at the WGR Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Virtual Summit on July 14, 21, and 28 from 9:30-11:30 am each day. Each day will feature a different objective including education, ownership, and action. This three-day experience will feature keynote speakers, as well as interactive panels, and ample time for reflection to help participants translate their own DEI stories and experiences into actionable resources for their personal and professional lives. Register now to take part in this innovative and comprehensive deep dive of diversity, equity, and inclusion issues.