Growing up in rural Northeast Georgia, Mary was raised by her father, who worked in the granite industry for decades, Mary was the youngest in a house of 7. Often the recipient of free lunch and food stamps, Mary knows all too well the displaced shame thrust upon the working poor. She studied hard, started working at 16, and graduated from high school, the only one in her family to do so. After earning scholarships and grants, Mary went on to earn her undergraduate and graduate degrees, both from Clemson University. She credits public education with serving as the catalyst to propel her from poverty into the middle class. Mary served as a lecturer at Clemson University for 6 years, and has served as an English Instructor at Tri-County Technical College since 2009 where she was awarded the Presidential Medallion for Instructional Excellence in 2017. Mary has lived in Anderson, South Carolina with her husband, Shawn, for 20 years. Her daughter Madilyn is in middle school, and son Kenan attends USC.