“JCU is where I learned to be a leader. The foundation of service, ethics, and accountability helped me find my voice.”
Bride Rose Sweeney is an American politician and the first woman elected to represent Ohio’s 14th House District, which includes part of Cleveland, Brooklyn, Brook Park, Parma Heights and Middleburg Heights. She is the youngest Democrat in the Ohio General Assembly. Rep. Sweeney serves on the House Commerce and Labor Committee, Finance Subcommittee on Higher Education, and Insurance Committee. Prior, she worked as a legislative staffer for several members of the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus, overseeing committee activities, drafting speeches and helping craft new legislation.
Q: Why did you attend JCU?
A: I grew up in Cleveland and went to St. Joseph Academy. Going to a smaller, liberal arts school was something I was interested in. It came down to being awarded the Leadership Scholarship and having the ability to major or minor in leadership. At the time, I was undecided about what I wanted to do. My dad was a politician, and I swore I’d never get into it. I knew I wanted to be in a leadership role, so having opportunities to foster that at John Carroll was very attractive. I don’t think any other school offered that at the time.
Q: What story or experience best reflects your time at JCU?
A: The connection you have with your teachers at John Carroll is so important. I remember Dr. (Colin) Swearingen taught a congressional class where each student picked a representative, and we held session. He had worked in a state legislature, so having that experience really helped. When I started as a representative, that one class and having learned in a real-world way taught me more about how the legislature works than reading about it ever could.
Through Dr. Swearingen, I also met Dora Pruce, who was John Carroll’s director of government relations at the time. I became her intern, and she’s the reason I knew about the LSC Legislative Fellowship Program, which started my career in state government. The fellowship is a 13-month program at the State House that gets recent graduates to understand state government. Dora is now a lobbyist, and we work together. Those connections keep popping up from John Carroll in different ways, even in Columbus. There was a Carroll grad working as a lobbyist who put me in touch with so many others. They were Republicans, and I’m a Democrat, but it transcended politics—they were committed to helping another John Carrol graduate.
Q: What was the most valuable learning/lesson from JCU that shaped you personally or professionally?
A: I’d say JCU reinforced the importance of effort and participation. In a lot of the political science classes at John Carroll, it was all about debating with your classmates. Some of my classes had six people. You couldn’t just sit in the corner and observe and take notes. I was never the loudest person in high school. Those classes held me accountable. They really challenged me to use my voice and say, “I do have an opinion that matters.
After being elected, one of the committees I got on was the finance committee. In the first committee meeting, we were hearing from the director of transportation, who was coming before us to ask for a gas tax increase and address the $2 billion hole we were in. I participated immediately, asking the third or fourth question. I developed that confidence at John Carroll. Asking questions and using my voice has propelled me so much further. I don’t have the luxury of just sitting back, because it’s too important for the constituents I represent and to the whole system.
Q: How are you making a human impact in your career?
A: I'm a public servant representing 110,000 people. They’re my bosses. Some people are skeptical about politicians. They think their vote doesn’t matter, or that politicians don’t listen to them. There’s also a lot of power and money in government, but that was one of John Carroll’s messages—it’s bigger than just yourself. So many classes having a connection to social justice and service made me want to go into this system, do the hard work, and try to change that perception. It’s one of the unique things about John Carroll—it was very comfortable to talk about wanting to serve. It was unlike any other school my friends and I visited.
Also, as a young woman, this job is challenging. There are biases I knew I’d face going in. I have to be more prepared than everyone. I had a lot of women come before me that gave me the confidence to be here. We have the most women ever serving in legislature, and it’s only 22 percent. I have a duty to take this seriously and clear a path for the next young woman after me.