We are pleased to welcome Elyssa Giordano to the SPN team as our newest event manager. She’ll be working on many of our upcoming events, including the Annual Meeting where you’ll get a chance to meet her. To help us get to know her better in the meantime, we chatted with Elyssa about her policy and personal interests, her professional background, and what inspired her to work in the liberty movement.

SPN: How did you first get involved in the freedom movement? What has your prior work experience been?

Elyssa: I’ve been working on various political events since 2011.  I went to school for Politics at Marymount University in Arlington and after an internship on the Hill, I quickly realized I enjoyed working with the staffers who organized catering and off site events rather than researching and writing policy.  During college I volunteered, interned, and eventually worked with the Conservative Political Action Conferencebefore moving to Americans for Prosperity (AFP) where I developed a real appreciation for state-focused politics and built relationships with staff and activists across the country.

Following my time at AFP, I learned a great deal about working for the supplier side of events at the National Archives Foundation, which supports the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC. [At this point, you’re most likely thinking: “She’s definitely seen the back of the Constitution!” Sadly not . However, they did date the various copies on the back, so maybe Nicholas Cage was onto something…]

In May I moved back to my hometown in New Jersey, but still wanted to be involved with organizations making a difference for liberty. This opportunity at SPN was a perfect fit!

SPN: Was there a moment or a role model that inspired you to choose work that’s dedicated to the cause of freedom and human flourishing?

Elyssa: I always knew I wanted to work in politics for causes I believed in.  Working in the Washington, DC, “bubble”, that work can sometimes be abstract since you rarely, if ever, meet the individuals who are seeing changes in their communities or wallets because of your efforts.  That changed for me on a trip to Jackson, MS.

While working at AFP, we often tackled community issues like criminal justice reform and occupational licensing regulations.  On the trip to Jackson, Mississippi I was lucky to meet Melony Armstrong, one of the first people to speak out about the excessive overregulation natural hairbraiders are facing.  Melony was so kind and showed true grit throughout her journey. It was really inspiring to meet her and hear her story firsthand.

A few months later I met hairbraiders in New Jersey during a lobby day in Trenton.  These women were fighting because they wanted to simply provide for their families and live the American dream, much like many of my friends and family members.  It was such a moving experience and confirmed we are “fighting the good fight.” It continues to motivate me today.

SPN: What will your focus be as a policy specialist at SPN? What are you looking forward to most in this role?

Elyssa: My focus at SPN will be bringing together staff from state think tanks across to country for various training opportunities, including professional development and strategic planning.  In my work I love to optimize the supports of donors, who generously make this work possible, while not sacrificing the quality of the event I’m planning. I see it as a personal challenge and professional development opportunity.

I look forward to seeing our work help individuals be equipped to execute and succeed in their jobs. And I am excited to work side-by-side with them to advance the momentum for freedom we are seeing across the country.

SPN: What current issue or policy is nearest and dearest to your heart?

Elyssa: Criminal justice reform is one major issue I’ve been closely following.  The system in America is broken, not to mention costly for taxpayers, and in need of serious reform.  We’re seeing unlikely partnerships forming to make a change in that arena for the better.  I think it shows what a significant impact both sides can make when they work together for non-partisan legislation.

SPN: When you’re not improving the world at work, where are you likely to be found? What are your favorite hobbies and pastimes?

Elyssa: I love to travel and am aiming to see all 50 states. I have 16 left to go.  Having  studied European History in college I love to watch documentaries and read about critical moments in countries like France and England.  I grew up in a big extended family, half of whom are Italian, so (naturally) I love to cook for large groups of people.  I also love being so close to NYC because there is always something going on or something to see.  During the summer I enjoy spending time at my family beach home in Seaside Heights, NJ.