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Opportunity knocks, Kochera answers
Jennifer Shilling, Lee Nerison and North Crawford job shadowing student Brandi Kochera

A spark of interest can become a calling, as North Crawford junior Brandi Kochera has discovered since first being encouraged to think about the political process in her 7th grade civics class taught by John Armbruster.

Add tenacity to that interest and amazing opportunities arrive.

After campaigning with the then Assemblywoman Shilling in August’s recall race against Senator Dan Kapanke and then marching with her in September’s Apple Fest parade, Kochera broached the idea of job shadowing the legislator as she went about her job in Madison. The response was a solid yes, but Kochera needed to call Shillings office to get the ball rolling.

Taking that response to the North Crawford’s school-to-work coordinator Teresa Lown kept the impetus going. With Lown speaking to the Senators office, a date was arranged and Kochera found herself following Shilling through her day on October 19.

“I knew it was busy,” Kochera said, “but I was surprised. There are no breaks. She was always meeting with someone, coworkers, constituents, people lobbying her.”

The lobbyists Kochera met that day were not the professional lobbyist we usually think of when we hear the word. These were everyday people with day jobs in Shillings district, but who were there to speak on behalf of an organization they represented. In this case it was members the La Crosse Oktoberfest and a gathering of 130 occupational therapists.

“She has a pretty large office,” Kochera said when describing all those who met with Shilling that day.

Shadowing Shilling also gave Kochera the chance to meet other figures working at the State Capitol. She was able to meet with Representative Lee Nerison and State Court Justice Mary Ann Walsh.

Kochera plans to return for a second job shadow in the spring. The first has reinforced her desire to pursue a career in politics. Her hope is to be able to follow Shilling into committee meetings and into the Senate Chamber.

“I would love to go to UW-Madison. I think I will look at interning once in college,” Kochera said.

The positive experience Kochera had has been infectious.

“A lot of people were excited for me. A few of my friends would like to do something like this,” Kochera continued. “Not necessarily with politics, but in their career choice.”

And if you want to make this happen for yourself?

“Just keep an open mind and stay determined,” Kochera advises.