My name is Kerri Evelyn Harris. As a veteran, advocate, and community organizer, I’ve dedicated my life to public service. I live in Kent County, work in New Castle County, have a daughter in Capital School District, and organize throughout Delaware to make sure every person has a voice in the policies that affect their daily lives.
I come from a diverse, multicultural family that instilled values of equality, opportunity, and respect for all people, regardless of background. My parents were advocates and organizers who taught us the value of public service. My family history shaped the person I am today, and instilled these core values that continue to drive me.
I first answered the call to service in the aftermath of 9/11. As a loadmaster in the Air Force, I transported troops and equipment from Dover to bases across the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. I witnessed the cost of war. I saw soldiers suffering from PTSD who were unable to make the trip back overseas. Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, I volunteered with Habitat for Humanity rebuilding houses along the Gulf Coast. I was an airman by day and a volunteer construction worker by night. It was one of the most meaningful times in my life.
My time in the military reaffirmed the pride I have in the United States of America, and the values of freedom, equality, and opportunity that we aspire to but have yet to fully realize. My service was cut short prematurely when I was medically retired from active duty in 2008, but not before I saw the diversity, greatness, and challenges faced by societies across the world.
I returned to civilian life in the depths of the Great Recession, and like millions of Americans I struggled to make ends meet. I worked odd jobs—from cutting grass to frying chicken at a chain gas station—and by the grace of God, we were able to keep ourselves housed, clothed, and fed. By day I worked on cars in an auto body shop, but when time allowed, I volunteered with the local Red Cross, at homeless shelters, and coached my daughter’s soccer team. My parents taught us to always be of service to others, even in the midst of our own struggles, and those lessons kept me moving forward even in times of hardship.
Most recently, I’ve answered the call to service within my Delaware community. As the Program Director for Achievement Matters, I lead a team working with youth to close the educational achievement gap. Through the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League, I teach young people how to fight for social change. I also work with the Center for Popular Democracy on solutions to the opioid crisis, healthcare, immigration, and taxes, and as the Kent County Coordinator for Network Delaware, I’m organizing to increase engagement throughout Delaware.
My life story echoes millions of others who feel called to service to improve our communities for the next generation. Together we are able to make a difference because we are guided by a common belief that we are all sisters and brothers, and we need to lift each other up so that all of our communities can thrive.