Debra Goldman, Wake County Board of Education

Written By Kati Knowland

When she was younger, Debra Goldman, a member of the Wake County Board of Education, was in a serious car accident. Trapped in the vehicle, Goldman remembers a uniformed man crawling partway into the car and staying with her until rescue workers were able to get her out.

“Being trapped in a vehicle like that is frightening,” said Goldman. “You’re hurt, you’re scared, and you don’t understand what is happening. And somehow, this man got in the car with me, and I was not alone. This person I didn’t even know did this for me, so I always knew that someday I wanted to do that for somebody else.”

Because of that moment in her life, combined with an innate desire to serve others, Goldman has spent decades striving to be there for people who need her help. And whether that meant tutoring kids, volunteering with the Special Olympics, being involved in the school system, or running into a burning building to fight a fire, Goldman has been there for others.

Directly because of her experiences in that accident, Goldman joined the fire police in Pennsylvania and then went on to fire school and got certified in vehicle extrication, hazardous materials handling, and even got her EMT certification, ultimately spending about seven years actively involved as a volunteer firefighter.

Then when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she realized that perhaps it was time to change course a bit.

“I realized that God puts obstacles in your way, and as a wife and mother, maybe I didn’t need to bring in those other risks myself; maybe there was another way I could give back, another legacy that I could leave, and help people without endangering myself,” she said.

Today, Goldman fights more metaphorical fires as a member of the Wake County Board of Education. She had always been involved in education, serving on PTA boards and heading up fundraising events at her children’s schools. And she says that despite her many, varied philanthropic endeavors that earned her the President’s Volunteer Service Award, advocating for children has always been her focus.

“That’s what it’s about for me,” said Goldman. “Plain and simple. If you want to drill it down, it’s about advocating for children and making sure that everyone has equal opportunities and a real fair shot at the prize, which is quality education, the infrastructure for a lifetime.”

Running for a position on the school board was something she’s always dreamed of doing, but she said it still seems surreal at times that she actually accomplished that goal. And she acknowledges that her time on the school board has not been without controversy.

“There is no way in this position to make everybody happy,” she said. “What I need to do is focus on what I believe is best for the children and focus on voting my conscience and voting for what I believe is right and what I believe will strengthen the system here in Wake County.”

Despite the controversy, Goldman recognizes that education is her passion, and serving the families and children of Wake County is her calling. Goldman said that finding one’s passion is really a matter of getting out and getting involved and seeing what fits.

She cautions women to remember that while they should try out many different causes or activities, they should not be afraid to move away from something when they realize it’s not a good fit.

“I think women in general start something and then they don’t want to disappoint others, so they don’t want to say no or they don’t want to change course,” said Goldman. “It’s really important to value yourself and know if it’s right for you or if there’s something else out there for you.”

Goldman marks the success of others as her proudest accomplishment, whether those others are her own children or people she has helped through her various volunteer endeavors.

“If you can lead others to reach their potential and lead others to be successful, then, in turn, you’ve been successful,” she said. “So, to me, my greatest accomplishment has been enabling others to succeed and seeing their dreams come to fruition.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *