As part of her goal to make it to every school in her York-area legislative district in her first 100 days in office, Carol Hill-Evans recently visited a pre-K class where students were using Chromebooks.
The students don’t yet read, but the laptop devices let the youngsters use pictures instead of letters to communicate their thoughts. Hill-Evans noted that “the technology they’re using now, even compared to when my children were in school, is really quite amazing.”
But as the new state representative from York’s 95th District, she sometimes feels like she’s the one who’s back in school.
“I see myself as someone who’s open-minded, and always learning, and that’s what I’m doing – I’m learning a lot,” she said.
Elected last November, the 67-year-old York resident, a Democrat, has met with school leaders, as well as students from the very youngest to college-age, since taking office.
She has found that some things are the same in schools no matter where you go.
One similarity is that everyone seems to need more money and more technology, said Hill-Evans, a new member of the House Education Committee, and the other is that the children “have the same zest, the same energy for learning, and it doesn’t matter where they go to school.”
The visits to schools have reminded her that “it’s all about education, it’s all about training, it’s all about keeping as much here in Pennsylvania as we can,” Hill-Evans told the Business Journal in a recent interview.
A York native, she is a former human-resources professional who became a politician later in adulthood, serving on York City Council for nine years, including five as council president.
The political piece really grows on you, said Hill-Evans, a York City schools graduate who completed her college degree in her early 50s, but never saw herself in elected office.
“When the opportunity came to run for council and then this came along, I didn’t jump at it. I thought about it very carefully, did some research and thought, what the heck, I have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” she said.
In November, the York City resident was elected to the state House seat covering York and some suburban areas that had been held by Kevin Schreiber. He left the position to become president and CEO of the York County Economic Alliance.
Schreiber said he’s “absolutely confident in Carol and her role as state representative. She will continue to do a fine job, and I was proud to hand it off to her.”
In her role on the education committee, Hill-Evans has met with everyone from leaders of the State System of Higher Education to local school superintendents. “Everybody needs more money, but if I get that money, where’s it going to go? I hope the (state) budget has the money in it that can help all of our children in a more equitable way,” she said.
She also serves on the urban affairs, local government and veterans affairs/emergency preparedness committees. The last one “is, by far, the most active committee that I’m on,” she noted.
Since many veterans face alcohol, drug and mental-health and issues after they return to the U.S., Hill-Evans said, “finding funding to provide resources for our veterans is critical. Whatever I can do to help that along, speak out, educate people exactly what is going on with our veterans, is very important.”
Before entering politics, Hill-Evans had worked in HR for Caterpillar and for Harley-Davidson, and also worked for downtown York’s Bell Socialization Services Inc. Her HR experience made her used to dealing with people and speaking in public, she noted.
After nearly a decade in politics, she said you “grow … I don’t want to call it ‘a thick skin,’ because I don’t want to sound calloused, but you come to realize that people want you to succeed, so if you take their critiques, not criticisms, as just that, and you learn from them, it gives you a certain poise that is very helpful.
“And even if you don’t feel as confident as you might look, it gives you that composure to just be still, and listen.”
As the mother of two daughters (Hill-Evans and her husband, William, between them have five children), the new representative is a big fan of mature women leaders mentoring the next generation.
She urges younger women “to pick someone you admire” as a mentor.
“I can’t imagine someone in leadership doesn’t want to bring other people along,” Hill-Evans commented. “And as a female and as an African-American female, I feel honored to be in a position where I can bring people along.”
She added that “it’s a blessing to be on this journey, so anyone I can help in any way to get that ‘bug’ to be in leadership, not necessarily in political leadership, I’m willing to help.”