Lauren’s story begins with the strength of her immigrant family. When Lauren’s grandmother, Kimiko married her grandfather, Thomas, he was serving in the U.S. Air Force in Japan. They then gave birth to her father, Harold, prior to the family immigrating to Mannington, West Virginia. Following his honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, Thomas became a coal miner to feed his family. While working in West Virginia’s coal mines, Thomas became a victim of the greed and shortcuts of a corporation that did not prioritize the safety of their workers, and became one of the 99 victims of the 1968 Farmington Mine Disaster. In its aftermath, Kimiko, a newly widowed young mother who barely spoke English, was forced to feed her family on small Social Security checks. Through her strong will and determination, she eventually studied nursing at night school so that she could better provide for her family.
On the other side of Lauren’s family are hardworking Pennsylvanians who had a small family-owned trailer repair business. Unfortunately, while Lauren was in high school, her grandfather fell and broke his neck, becoming a quadriplegic for the remainder of his life. As her family redesigned their home for her grandfather’s wheelchair access, Lauren became extremely aware of the difficulties facing those who have disabilities which prevent them from providing for their families, or even accessing public spaces. Both sides of Lauren’s family taught her to fight for programs such as Social Security which help families survive unforeseeable circumstances. She also has carried her keen awareness of the lack of disability access to public transportation and public spaces throughout her adult life.
Lauren’s interest in understanding the world led her to become an exchange student in Germany for her senior year of high school with AFS (American Field Service). She lived with a host family that she still considers her “second family.” This turned out to be a very formative time not only in Lauren’s life but also a turning point in American history. She learned about the United States’ actions in the Iraq War from the German perspective. She stood at a concentration camp, staring into chambers used for genocide, heartbroken, and determined to never allow history to repeat itself in her lifetime.
Lauren returned home to receive a B.A. in International Relations and thereafter a Master of Public Administration. During her studies, the entire globe experienced the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, heavily impacting the job market upon her graduation. Inspired by her grandmother, Kimiko, Lauren was determined to not leave herself in debt from her schooling, so she worked 40 hours per week at a temporary job with the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development while carrying a full-time course schedule at night.
Upon her graduation, she gained work experience as a Policy Analyst studying energy assistance programs for low-income families. Thereafter, she worked to create affordable housing in Mercer County, Pennsylvania. These experiences solidified her belief in every American’s right to have affordable housing and access to basics such as electricity and heat. Lauren believes these should be human rights. These early life lessons have stuck with her; she will always continue to fight for basic rights for all.
Upon arriving in New York City, Lauren wanted to meet new people and integrate into the community. She went to comedy school and started to perform standup comedy throughout the city as a hobby. In 2016 after wanting to create a safe place for comedians to practice their craft, she began to produce comedy shows. Later that same year she planned a celebration show for the weekend following the 2016 presidential election, and when that did not go as planned, she decided to turn the show into a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood in an effort to combat a feeling of hopelessness.
Lauren continued to plan free monthly charitable comedy shows, aptly named “Collection Box Comedy,” at which she would showcase diverse comedic talent and collect optional donations from attendees for various 501(c)3 organizations she is passionate about. This comedy series’ central causes are: fighting for civil rights, women’s rights, feeding the hungry, animal rights and rescue, disaster recovery, education, and prison reform. Since November 2016, she has been able to raise over $10,000 in charitable dollars, recruit volunteers, and build and continue strong relationships with local and national charities.
She has also become a proud member of the Middle Collegiate Church, a congregation known for its love-based activism in New York City and globally. She is excited to participate in this Church’s activism and educational opportunities such as participating in an anti-racism leadership series, and raising funds and awareness for their disaster recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.
Starting in 2017 in the aftermath of an election when women were once again sidelined, Lauren has been heavily involved in the successful Women’s March on NYC as a project manager, analyst, fundraiser and recently emcee for the Women’s March Alliance. She is proud to work with a diverse team of women and men who passionately volunteer to ensure a safe and successful march highlighting the fight we still have ahead of us to ensure equality for women.
Lauren’s current occupation is directly linked to the 2008 economic crisis and the fear it caused her as she was finishing her studies and was forced to be searching for employment amidst global layoffs and downsizing. She firmly believes that corporations will always exist up to the limit the government provides them (e.g. local, federal and global regulations), but that in many places right now those limits are so loose as to leave the system vulnerable to another economic crisis. She believes the 2008 crisis was caused by lack of regulation in the financial sector, and the lack of regulation can be tied to politicians accepting Corporate PAC money which influences their decisions while in office. Citing her idealistic desire to prevent another crisis, Lauren currently uses her expertise in data analytics and project management to help ensure the largest bank in the world follows every single local, federal and global law regulating the financial sector. Lauren personally supports a reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act and thinks that the banks that choose to operate as if Dodd-Frank was not rolled back in 2018 are making more responsible decisions than our federal government which is pushing for deregulation despite fully knowing the risks.
Lauren’s spirit is a creative and tenacious one that has fought for equality and human rights since her childhood. She is used to fighting for societal change at all levels. Lauren’s goal is to continue her fight for a better world starting at a grassroots, people-driven level, by serving her Congressional District with the same energy she has brought to every fight before.
- Lauren has two rescue cats named Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1 year old) and Jean Louise (14 years old, named after Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird, her favorite book).
- Lauren speaks fluent German from her exchange year to Germany with AFS.
- Lauren plays clarinet, piano, saxophone and bass guitar and cites her music education as a reason for her deep sense of humanity.
- A major foodie, Lauren’s favorite New York restaurants are listed (in no particular order) below:
-Afghan Kebab House
-L&B Spumoni Gardens (Lauren’s favorite pizza)
-Paul’s Da Burger (Lauren’s favorite burger)
-Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot
- Speaking of food, Lauren’s favorite food is “any culture’s version of a pocket of dough filled with deliciousness,” e.g. gyoza, pierogi, momos, samosas, empanadas, ravioli, etc.
- Lauren’s Fortnite username is VoteAshcraft. Add her if you play too! Her other favorite games are anything in the Zelda or Grand Theft Auto franchises.