At the age of 20, Jessica Koehler has already accomplished much.
She finished college with a Bachelor’s degree in just two years, taught English to children in Taiwan, and is now helping her father run for state representative in Ohio, where she and her family live.
Her path into politics began with TeenPact Leadership Schools, which teaches students how to lead through hands-on activities such as mock legislatures. At the age of 14 while learning how her state government functions, Jessica discovered how she and others her age could impact politics.
“Getting my age group involved in political activities is very important to me,” Jessica said. “It’s important because my generation has been told again and again that it is acceptable to just sit back and let the world run its course, and that getting involved will not make a difference.”
To prove that she can make a difference no matter her age, Jessica got involved in debate. Her mother’s urging didn’t hurt either.
“I began competing in debate and speech when I was 15 years old, and continued until I was 18,” Jessica remembered. “My mom initially forced me, her extremely shy daughter, to attend and compete, but after the first year I was so amazed by the difference I saw in myself that I agreed to continue. It was probably one of the toughest experiences of my life, and it taught me how to be confident, bold, and how to communicate effectively.”
Her debate experience also gave her a new perspective.
“My favorite part of competing was how much I learned through it,” Jessica said. “I started out as a 15-year-old girl who was afraid to give a prepared presentation in front of her friends, and I finished as a tournament-winning contestant who was able to passionately deliver impromptu speeches to a roomful of competitors and judges.”
Jessica’s family has also largely contributed to her love of politics.
From Springfield, Ohio, Jessica comes from a family of five children, where all of her siblings were homeschooled. Her father is a vice president of a tool and die company, and her mother is a psychologist and director of the national home school group Classical Conversations.
Her family has had a normal interest in current events, but that all changed when Jessica’s father, Kyle Koehler, decided to run for Clark County Commissioner in Ohio.
He lost by only 240 votes, but that didn’t deter him. Now, he’s agreed to run in his home district for state representative in 2014 because of all the requests from constituents and members of his political party.
“The Leadership Institute grabbed our attention because it offered valuable training for those hoping to run a successful campaign,” Jessica said. “While we ran an amazing campaign last time, we want to make sure that we do an even better job this time around. LI training has helped us prepare for the race by providing us with the tools to win no matter what comes our way.
Jessica plans to work on her father's campaign full time once she receives her degree in communication from Thomas Edison State College this December. Her job will be to organize the youth campaign, gathering support from local high school and college students.
She's graduating two years early through the Verity Institute, an accelerated program that allows college-level students to earn their bachelor's degrees in 21 months and is committed to growing students into Christian leaders.
She plans to use the “extra” two years remaining of the standard four-year college experience to gain hands-on experience in the field through internships.
Teaching English to children in Taiwan was life-changing for Jessica.
“Just this past January I was able to spend a month serving in Taiwan teaching children. It was an incredible experience and it widened my entire perspective on life,” Jessica shared.
Jessica first learned about the Leadership Institute from her sister and her mother, who attended a Youth Leadership School in Cincinnati, Ohio. They both encouraged Jessica and the rest of the family to come to Arlington, Virginia to get training too.
“My favorite parts of LI’s Youth Leadership School were the practical tips and recommendations from the experienced staff who led the training,” Jessica said. “They did not just talk about how a theoretical campaign would look; they took a realistic look at the challenges everyone faces, and gave me the tools to handle them.”
Jessica came to LI's Youth Leadership School in Arlington, Virginia just a few weeks ago with her father, brother, and sister.
"The Leadership Institute has helped me connect with other professionals who have the same passion to make a positive difference in this country," Jessica said. "LI is an invaluable resource to conservatives who really want to have an impact on our society."
Please congratulate Jessica Koehler on receiving LI's Conservative Leader-In-Training Award.
Stay connected with Jessica on Twitter @jess_me93.
To nominate a Leadership Institute graduate or faculty member for the Conservative Leader Award or Conservative Leader-In-Training Award where they will have an article written about them, please contact LI's Director of External Affairs Lauren Day at Lauren@LeadershipInstitute.org.