Emerge New Jersey kicked off its 2016 Political Training Program in mid-January for its third “Politics 101 in New Jersey,” class. This year’s class is Emerge New Jersey’s largest class to date, of 20 Democratic women who were selected from throughout the state.

During the two-day kickoff weekend, Emerge New Jersey’s 2016 class members learned the nuts and bolts of a successful political campaign from local, county and state elected officials. On Saturday, Jan. 16 the new class had the opportunity to learn from Hillside Councilwoman and Emerge New Jersey’14 Alumnae, Diane Murray; Middlesex County Freeholder Deputy Director, Carol Bellante; and Assemblywoman Mila Jasey.

“Too often women wait to be asked to run for elected office and that needs to change. Women need to be intentional about political engagement - organizing, supporting, running,” said Assemblywoman Mila Jasey. “Emerge New Jersey provides the tools, training and support to position Democratic women to successfully pursue opportunities for elected office.”

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Day two of Emerge New Jersey’s kickoff weekend was held on Sunday, Jan. 17 and allowed members of the new class to work in groups with local, county, and state elected officials. New Jersey State Democratic Committee (NJSDC) Vice Chair, Lizette Delgado-Polanco; Hunterdon County Democratic Committee Chairwoman, Arlene Quinones Perez; Westfield Democratic Committee Chairwoman, Janice Siegel; Monmouth County Democratic Committee Chairman, Vin Gopal; and Essex County Freeholder Vice President, Brendan Gill were all in attendance to share their political insight and expertise to the new class.

“Having the opportunity to provide my political and professional expertise to Emerge New Jersey's 2016 class was a great experience and one I hope to do again in the future. I know firsthand the difficulties of running for office; and having the proper tools and skills makes all the difference. Emerge New Jersey provides those tools, a powerful network and a rigorous curriculum,” said Essex County Freeholder Vice President, Brendan Gill. “Being able to teach the 2016 class how to create and implement an effective, successful political campaign will benefit them as they pursue their political aspirations. I'm glad I was called on to do the job and look forward to seeing what the new class does in the future."

After the training concluded on Sunday, a kickoff reception was held to celebrate the new class of women taking the first step toward elected office in New Jersey. During the reception, each woman in the 2016 class was introduced to Emerge New Jersey’s board members and alumnae, as well as local elected officials. East Orange Mayor Lester Taylor; Somerset County Democratic Committee Chair, Peg Schaffer; Morris County Democratic Committee Chair, Chip Robinson; NJSDC South Asian American Political Caucus Co-Chair, Satish Poondi; Metuchen Councilwoman, Dorothy Rasmussen; and Former Edison Mayor and current Chairman of New Jersey Policy Perspective, Jun Choi were in attendance to welcome Emerge New Jersey’s 2016 class.

The following women were accepted into Emerge New Jersey’s 2016 program: M. Isabel Alarcon, Hudson County; Marie Battist-Celestin, Cumberland County; Aerielle Belk, Camden County; Rebecca Cain, Morris County; Heather Champagne, Morris County; Colleen Curren, Camden County; Marie Marthelle Guervil, Union County; Tomecca (Mecca) Keyes, Essex County; Emily Kullmann, Morris County; Nidhi Makhija, Somerset County; Dana Murray, Essex County; Cristina Pinzon, Union County; Lorna Phillipson, Monmouth County; Damaris Ramirez, Middlesex County; Connie Sanchez, Union County; Maisha Scudder, Atlantic County; Stephanie Smith, Essex County; Bibi Taylor, Essex County; Dahlia Vertreese, Union County; and Sharronda Wheeler, Essex County.