By Alyssa Weston
Youngstown State University economics club hosted Democratic candidate for the 59th District Eric Ungaro on Oct. 25.
Ungaro was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, and is a special education teacher and varsity football coach at Howland High School and a trustee for Poland Township.
The husband and father of two daughters is also the son of Patrick J. Ungaro, former Youngstown mayor for 14 years.
Karlis Larson, a sophomore business finance major and member of the economics club, is a political outreach coordinator for Ungaro’s campaign and organized the talk.
Larson brought Ungaro in to promote his campaign and to allow him to speak on the changes he wants to see in the Mahoning Valley.
“He comes from a family that has always served the [Mahoning] Valley with integrity, so we need someone like him who wants to promote economic growth. Someone who fights for the middle class, who is a union guy, has been a public education teacher and longtime coach,” Larson said.
Larson is a Howland High School alumnus and his father, just like Ungaro, is a teacher at Howland High School. Because of this, Larson grew up knowing Ungaro personally.
During the talk, Ungaro shared his life story with students.
Ungaro told students he is going to go to Columbus from the perspective of a teacher and a coach and fight for the things he believes in, without being a puppet.
In 2012, Ungaro’s brother died due to an overdose, and Ungaro uses this experience to serve as a voice for families who are struggling with the opioid epidemic.
“Everybody talks about it now and everyone has the answers and is compassionate about it, but if you go back to 2012 [people with drug addictions] were considered bums,” Ungaro noted in an interview with The Jambar.
He decided to get involved and created family groups that worked toward breaking the stigma around drug addiction. He eventually became part of the Mental Health and Recovery Board and has been proactive in supporting families. The board started the use of narcan in Poland.
“I’m proud of those things. Just trying to take a tragedy and make it into a positive,” Ungaro said. “I’m not really political, but I hope my body of work, helping others, being humble and our families history kind of radiates into a victory here.”
One of the key issues he discussed was the public education system and his disapproval of most standardized testing.
“[State testing is] a waste of money. Let’s get back to helping these kids, getting them in trade schools, counseling them and doing the things we need to do,” Ungaro said.
The talk was meant to be informative and not necessarily an endorsement for the candidate.
According to Larson, in the past two years he’s been in the economics club, he’s noticed the guest speakers weren’t as interesting and students were motivated by extra credit from professors to attend the events. However, Larson said students actually listen to and enjoyed this talk.
“There was probably 15 students who went up to him after and wanted to engage with him,” he said.
Larson said there are no plans to bring Ungaro’s opponent, Don Manning, in to talk and Ungaro didn’t really speak about Manning during the event. Instead, Ungaro focused on telling his life story.
Students were encouraged to attend the event to become more engaged in voting.
“We are part of the movement. We are what shapes the rest of Mahoning County, Trumbull County, the state of Ohio and even the nation. We are part of that group that is going to shape the future,” Larson said.
Michael Tricomi, a U.S. government teacher and varsity football coach at Howland High School, said he first met Ungaro when he was a varsity football player at Howland High school in 2003.
“[Ungaro] was my linebacker position coach and our defensive coordinator. From that point on he has been a mentor to me and a role model. If you ask anyone who played or coached with him, they will tell you the exact same thing,” he said.
Tricomi said Ungaro inspires a love and passion in his players and fellow coaches that is unmatched in anyone he has met.
“I am lucky enough to have coached with him and learned from him as a member of the Howland football staff for the last six years,” he said. “I have also co-taught social studies inclusion classes with him during my time as a teacher at Howland. He shares the same passion for education and coaching as he does in politics.”
According to Tricomi, the combination of that passion, personal rapport and leadership makes Ungaro an excellent candidate for the district.
“He embodies the definition of a ‘man of action,’ which is a characteristic that is currently lacking in many political realms. He is an excellent candidate to represent the people,” he said.