By Catherine Tuttle | 0 comments
2012 marks the 20th anniversary of Shipshewana native Shelli Yoders journey to Atlantic City as Miss Indiana. You might wonder what inspired the 1992 Miss Indiana to run for Indiana's 9th District U.S. House seat. Directly from the source, Yoder explains she was fed up with Congress which is anti-worker, anti-women, and anti-middle-class families. She is tired of politicians being unable to work together. Shelli Yoder is always uncertain how to respond when someone discovers she competed in pageants and offers, Really? You dont seem the type. The second runner-up in 1992s Miss America contest usually refrains from disclosing her pageant past. But Shelli reflects, My pageant past is multi-layered and peculiarcomplete with big hair and, oddly enough, a significant amount of gratitude. Shelli Yoder was born and raised in Shipshewana, Indiana where she learned about hard work at an early age by helping out at the family gas station. When the gas crisis and recession of the 1970s and early 1980s forced her parents to sell the family business, she watched her parents start-up and run another small business. She remembers, firsthand, the value of perseverance through tough economic times. Shelli earned a bachelor's degree from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne in 1991 and a master's in counseling and human services from Indiana University-South Bend. She later went on to earn a master's in divinity from Vanderbilt University and used the scholarship money from the Miss Indiana contest to pay for graduate school. Over the past 15 years, Shelli has worked at non-profit organizations, focusing on gaining access to physical and mental health services and educational opportunities for those in need. Shelli has developed a proven record of balancing budgets and forging partnerships among diverse groups of stakeholders. In the 1990s she was the director of a shelter for at-risk youth in South Bend. More recently she was the Executive Director of the Eating Disorders Coalition of Tennessee, the only statewide nonprofit in the Southeast dedicated to eating disorder awareness, education, and prevention. Prior to that appointment, she spent three years as a senior staffer with GirlForce, a nonprofit affiliate of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center that focused on wellness issues facing at-risk adolescent girls. She is now associate director of professional development for Indiana University's Kelley School of Business. The Washington Post recognized political newcomer Shellis campaign as one of the few that highlight poverty and call for concrete measures to end poverty. Shelli explained that poverty is an issue that impacts all of us - especially many communities throughout this District's 13 counties. High rates of poverty are destabilizing to all social institutions and it is unacceptable that in the United States, over 1/5 of children are ill-fed, ill-housed, and ill-educated. The Earned Income Tax Credit will help low-income families keep more of the money they earn. Shelli has committed to support early childhood education and intervention - including Head Start as a way to set kids on a pathway to success and also as a constructive way to end the cycle of poverty. Specifically back home in the 9th District, the issue of poverty is deeply intertwined as the biggest challenge Hoosiers face. Shelli promises to bring good-paying jobs back to Indiana and sees this as the key to combating poverty. She calls for greater investments in 21st century education and skill development strategies to break out of the current economic disorder. Shellis 10 point job plan works to make investments in emerging sectors of the 21st century to answer this need. The current Congress simply isn't focused on solutions to build an economic recovery that lasts and benefits everyone including working families and the working poor. As a working mom, Shelli has unique insights into what people are facing right now. Every day on the campaign trail, she listens to people worried about paying their bills at the end of each month or worrying that their kids wont have the educational opportunities they had. They worry their children will not have good access to health care. But most of all, they are concerned with finding and keeping the good-paying, sustainable wage jobs that can help them take care of their families. These are questions that Congress, over the past two years, has ignored in favor of partisan ideological battles. That is exactly why I got into the race, because I believe I offer a different type of leadership for taking on these challenges. Shelli supports the 2010 health care reform bill, saying the country's health care system has turned into a "sick-care system. In particular, she supports provisions of the reform bill that prohibit health insurers from refusing coverage based on pre-existing conditions. Shelli believes Congress needs to make college accessible and affordable for students. She says a skilled and educated workforce drives economic development. She wants to increase support for university and private research to produce cutting-edge products, industries, and technical jobs. Her jobs plan calls for bringing together business, labor leaders and community groups to launch a regional job-creation strategy. The plan also calls for raising the minimum wage and increasing funding for job retraining. Shelli wants to make the district a leader in green technology and her jobs plan also calls for expanding broadband technology to generate new tele-medicine jobs and online education opportunities. She says climate change is real and that government and non-government solutions need to be looked at when addressing the problem. Shelli promotes activities that reuse national resources and limit our impact on our environment. Her 10 point job plan targets investments in these critical areas. I don't believe we have to trade our personal health, or the health of our planet for the economic health of an industry or our nation. Finding ways to use our resources wisely and to create good-paying, modern manufacturing jobs will remain a priority. These sorts of jobs pay a sustainable wage and are what we need to re-build a 21st century middle class. Shelli supports smart defense spending. She says the nation can reduce defense spending by cutting back on the number of troops in Europe and by reducing unnecessary Pentagon spending. She says that with the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the nation can begin to cut the size of our ground troops to pre-9/11 levels. She won the May 2012 Democratic primary against five other candidates, picking up 47 percent of the vote and crediting her victory to grassroots support. Shelli is continuing to use that support leading up to the November general election where she faces incumbent Republican Todd Young. She has criticized Young for ignoring working people. Along each step of her educational and professional career, Shelli has worked to improve the lives of others. She has experience tackling tough issues and a strong track record of achieving positive results. Shelli knows how to listen her collaborative leadership will bring a fresh voice to Congress. Shes ready to fight for Indianas families and communities, just like she always has.
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