RICHMOND, Va. -- When Winsome Earle-Sears is sworn in as Virginia's next Lieutenant Governor, she will be the first woman, and the first woman of color, to ever assume the role.
But, she said she does not dwell on it.
"I didn't run to be the first anything. I knew that was a possibility, I just wanted to help," Earle-Sears said.
Earle-Sears, who went by Winsome Sears during the race on the advice of advisors, said she is returning to her hyphenated last name, which includes her maiden name, Earle.
"When my father came in 1963, it was 17 days before MLK gave his 'I Have a Dream Speech,' so he came at the height of the Civil Rights movement, he came with only a dollar seventy-five," Earle-Sears said.
The Republican said her background as a Jamaican immigrant who arrived in the United States at age six, shaped her worldview that with hard work and education, a child, even those living in abject poverty, can become anything they want to.
"I know the struggle, and I want all children to know they can be here, they can do exactly what I have done, there is nothing special to it except stay in school and study," Earle-Sears said. "Education will lift everyone out of poverty."
We met Earle-Sears at Holly Knoll in Gloucester, which is the retirement home of Robert Moton, the second principal of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.
Moton believed that Black Americans should lift themselves up through education, which is also something Earle-Sears preaches.
In fact, she said that very issue drove her to jump into the Lieutenant Governor's race.
"I just saw our children floundering and COVID made it worse because of all the closings," Earle-Sears said. "You see what is happening now in other states, the unions are closing the schools, that's not going to work, it hasn't worked, it didn't work, it's not going to work."
She hopes to bring school choice to Virginia, through vouchers that would allow parents to pick where they want to send their kids to school, whether that be the local public school, a charter school, or a private school.
"We need competition in education, competition lifts all boats, so if the public schools aren't going to be open, give parents the opportunity to choose," Earle-Sears said.
While the CDC recommends universal indoor masking of all students ages two and older, Earle-Sears worries about forced masking.
"The children are suffering from what I am hearing speech pathologists are saying, especially at the younger ages. The children aren't able to form their words, so they can watch their mouths," Earle-Sears said.
She advises everyone to get the COVID vaccine, but she said nobody should be forced to do so.
"That's what they do in other countries. This is America, we have got to protect our liberties, and we've got to understand when enough is enough," Earle-Sears said.
Earle-Sears said mental health care for children was an issue that hit close to home.
Her daughter and two young granddaughters died in a car crash in 2012.
"My daughter when she would have her episodes, we wouldn't know where she was, and there was one time she was in jail because there was no hospital for her, and this happens all the time," Earle-Sears said. "We have the money now that we can finally put you know forward to take care of that."
We continue to hear from parents facing childcare challenges due to staffing problems at daycare centers, high costs, and limited spots.
Earle-Sears said she faced that herself as a mother of three, and she said she wants to learn more about the issue, and she is open to all solutions.