By Ben Shapiro, News Editor When Sarah Marvin and Representative Melissa Shusterman graduated from Conestoga, they headed off to become a pharmaceutical researcher and video producer, respectively. Today, both women face off in a race for the 157th District seat in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives. A 1998 alumna, Marvin decided to run for state Congress...
By Ben Shapiro, News Editor
When Sarah Marvin and Representative Melissa Shusterman graduated from Conestoga, they headed off to become a pharmaceutical researcher and video producer, respectively. Today, both women face off in a race for the 157th District seat in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives.
A 1998 alumna, Marvin decided to run for state Congress as a Republican after being disappointed with the federal government’s COVID-19 recovery plans. A 1985 Conestoga alumna, Shusterman ran for and took office in 2018 in reaction to former President Trump’s presidency and desire for women to represent a diversity of ideas. She is District 157’s Democratic incumbent. Both women hope to win the Nov. 8 midterm election to represent the district encompassing Schuylkill, Tredyffrin, Easttown and Willistown Townships.
In high school, neither Shusterman nor Marvin expected to run for office when they were older. Shusterman remembers spending her time packaging lunches for the homeless in Philadelphia, performing with the color guard — called the “kickline” in the ‘80s — and unsuccessfully running for Student Council multiple years in a row.
“I ran for something like three times and lost every time,” Shusterman said. “Sometimes it takes until you’re 51 to win an election, but it gave me great experience to get up in front of my peers and give a speech and be nervous. I’m still nervous now when I give a speech, but not as much.”
When thinking back to her time at Conestoga, Marvin remembers spending time practicing with the swim team. Looking back, she is very happy with the academic opportunity her alma mater made available to her.
“The fact that Conestoga has high expectations for their students (and) a very high level of academics that you receive helped (me grow) in combination with the fact that I am a very self-driven person. I think that, obviously, the education that I received there prepared me well for college and then to be able to make it in the workplace,” Marvin said.
Throughout her campaign, Marvin has been running with the slogan “common sense solutions for an uncommon time” to emphasize her desire for rational judgment in daily activities.
“Coming out of a time when there was a lot of fear and uncertainty, a lot of decisions weren’t necessarily based on common sense, but rather that fear of the unknown,” Marvin said. “I think we need to bring some logic and reason back into our decision-making as we move forward.”
Similarly, Shusterman’s slogan, “common sense before politics,” which she has used since her 2018 campaign, highlights a similar, yet uniquely different, message. She believes in bipartisanship, something that she continues to work toward as she, in the House, sits in between a Democrat and a Republican, not strictly on one side of the aisle.
“I’m the first legislator in Pennsylvania that has an office staff that includes Democrats, Republicans and Independents,” Shusterman said. “This is a public service position, so it brings me great joy to be able to serve the community.”
Outside of their political lives, both women are small-business owners. Marvin runs Springhouse Education, an “alternative education program” for cyber and homeschooled students, and focuses on co-teaching with parents — although, she calls herself and her coworkers “coaches.”
“As an educator, getting to see how cyber/virtual education was navigated by a lot of schools, I was concerned. I was concerned by some things that were being taught in public schools and certain things that were being shared with young children that I felt (were) kind of inappropriate, or rather, didn’t belong in a public school,” Marvin said.
Shusterman has publicly spoken out in support of public education and one of her campaign pillars is ensuring equitable public education for all children. This is just one of the many topics on which the two do not see eye-to-eye; they have opposing views on many hot-button topics such as abortion rights and mail-in ballots.
However, both Marvin and Shusterman agree that their time at Conestoga shaped who they are today. The lessons they learned — both in and out of class — taught them the valuable lessons they would need later on in life as they run for state Congress.
“It was a challenging environment and it was a competitive environment,” Shusterman said. “And that allowed me to go on to the next chapter without fear.”
Ben Shapiro can be reached at [email protected]
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