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 Lashrecse Aird, Virginia State Delegate for the 63rd District, which includes all of the City of Petersburg, parts of the City of Hopewell, Chesterfield, Dinwiddie and Prince George County. Delegate Lashrecse D. Aird was sworn in January 2016. She holds the special distinction of being the youngest woman ever elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. Delegate Aird has been appointed to serve on the General Laws; Health, Welfare and Institutions; and Appropriations committees. Delegate Aird’s service is guided by her allegiance to the citizens she represents and her devotion to improving their quality of life. In her first legislative term, she has placed a significant emphasis on education—K-12 and higher education—local governments in fiscal distress and workforce development. Additionally, she has been instrumental in securing millions of dollars for school systems in her district. Lashrecse’s professional and civic life reflect her conviction that the struggle for equality begins with political freedom and education. At Richard Bland College of William and Mary, she has a direct impact in helping today’s students become tomorrow’s leaders, as the Assistant Director of Development; raising money for scholarships to make college more accessible and affordable. Delegate Aird earned her undergraduate degree from Virginia State University in 2008. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia’s Sorensen Political Leadership Program; a graduate of the American Council on Education Virginia Network for Women in Higher Education’s Senior Leadership Seminar and a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Minority Political Leadership Institute. In addition, she has completed coursework at Virginia Commonwealth University toward a Master’s in Public Administration. A tireless and trusted community leader, Delegate Aird is actively engaged in numerous civic boards and organizations. Through her hard work and clarity of vision, she has risen to a leadership position in each organization that she serves. Currently, she chairs the 4th Congressional District Committee for the Democratic Party of Virginia. In addition, she is Chair of the Petersburg Democratic Committee; a member of the Board of Directors for Southside Regional Medical Center, the Petersburg Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and a former member of the Petersburg Planning Commission and the Governor’s Council on Women. Delegate Aird has been recognized with numerous awards and honors, including the Virginia Education Association, 2017 Solid as a Rock Award, being named to the Virginia Leadership Institute’s Top Ten Leaders under Forty; the recipient of Virginia State University’s Presidential Medallion; and the Young Trojan Distinguished Alumni Award for two consecutive years. Lashrecse is a resident of Petersburg where she and her husband, Blaine, reside and are raising their two young boys, Blaine and Blake.

She is an inspiration to the youth that want to get involved in public service and government. We caught up with Lashrecse to find out what leadership means to her and what advice she would give to the next generation of leaders.

Why did you choose this career path?

My adolescence was filled with adversity, and I grew up wanting to find a way to ensure others would not have to experience the same circumstances. This belief led me to community and public service, prior to being elected and in my current capacity.

Who inspired you to get involved?

My mother had me at as a teenager, but despite the challenge of being a young parent, she worked very hard and had grit to overcome any barrier that she encountered. Watching her set goals and achieve them one-by-one inspired me to do the same and more.

How do you define a leader?

Leadership can be defined in many ways, but in my role, someone you can trust is the best description of a leader. A leader is someone that can be trusted to execute their responsibilities honestly, with integrity, and will do what they actually said they will do. And, furthermore that individual has the ability to unify others around purpose, because a leader can’t accomplish anything alone.

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

One of the most important opportunities I offer the next generation of leaders is my internship program. So many young people don’t have a full understanding of today’s government. Each year I offer a legislative internship specifically for college students and recent graduates, to give them hands-on exposure to the legislative process, and how to organize around issues impacting the community.

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

Take the time to determine what your passion is, hone it on it, and then pursue as many opportunities as possible that align with that passion, even if it means volunteering. Be willing to grind, there are no shortcuts. Be assertive, not aggressive and be patient with yourself on your journey.