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Freshman Anna Fridley was co-captain of her high school swim team, vice-president of the senior class, secretary of the Waynesboro High School Honors Council, chair of the prom committee, a varsity soccer player, and member of the Pep Club, National Honor Society and the Youth Philanthropy Council. She also attended the Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School for its STEM program.
Oh, yeah, starting in early March of her senior year, during her “spare” time, she helped William & Mary alumna Shelly Laurenzo MA ’11 get elected to the school board in her hometown of Waynesboro, Virginia. For two months, they met regularly, discussing ideas about campaigning, planning events and reaching voters.
“I was immediately struck by how intelligent and thoughtful Anna is,” Laurenzo said. “She already had an understanding of local government and was eager to have an impact on the direction her community was headed, despite heading off to William & Mary this fall. Our first meeting was to discuss her interest in my campaign, and we automatically dove into election talk. I wanted to ensure that she knew my positions and would be comfortable supporting me. It quickly became clear that we had a lot in common.”
Fridley and Laurenzo obviously made a good team. The race wasn’t close, with Laurenzo, who was considered the underdog, pulling 57 percent of the vote.
“When Shelly was starting her campaign, she was looking for a student at Waynesboro High School to be an advisor who would talk to young people and encourage them to participate in the local election,” Fridley said. “I helped her by talking to students about voting in the election, helping them register to vote and getting them to the polls on election day.”
That was something Laurenzo said was obvious the day of the election.
“When Anna came out to vote, many of her fellow students were also arriving at roughly the same time, after sports practice but before the polls closed,” she said. “It was apparent that she had already talked to them about the election, and they were knowledgeable of my positions. She’s a great leader, and it’s clear that her classmates respect her intelligence and work ethic.”
In a sense, their relationship began during Fridley’s junior year at Waynesboro High School, when she was selected to serve on the Waynesboro Public School Facilities Committee as the student representative. The committee was composed of parents, teachers, principals and other community members charged with deciding whether to renovate the current Waynesboro High School, built in 1938, or replace it.
The two shared the feeling that the school deserved more than a facelift. The school, Fridley argued, could no longer provide students with a proper education.
“I believed that if she won the election then we would have an even better chance of reaching our goal with her leadership,” Fridley said. “Shelly understood what the students and parents wanted, so I decided to be on her campaign so that she could hopefully win the election. The fact that she wanted to build a new high school on a separate site was extremely important to me.”
Laurenzo said a subcommittee, consisting of members of city council and the school board has been formed and is meeting to determine how best to move forward. And, she added, she hopes to share the results of a project Fridley undertook at the Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School that recommended a site for the new high school.
“I believe her research is well grounded and could be influential in these discussions,” Laurenzo said.
Of all of the responsibilities Fridley took on through high school, the only position to which she was elected was vice president of the senior class. But being in a leadership position of so many organizations helped her, she said, in campaigning for Laurenzo.
“Since I was very active in the school, I was able to give Shelly some insight into what students needed and wanted when it came to their education,” she said. “Also, by being a member of these committees, I had to be comfortable talking to strangers and adults, and that gave me an advantage campaigning for Shelly.”
Fridley’s family members have worked in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as state legislators and as a member of the White House staff. So it should come as no surprise that Fridley hopes to pursue a career in politics and will major in government.
“It’s almost as if government runs through my blood,” she said. “Since I do want to pursue a career in politics, I wanted to experience what being on a campaign and politics was like first hand, even if it was just at the local level. Being a part of Shelly’s campaign I realized how much I truly love politics and how I could see myself in this field for the rest of my life.”