“I still appreciate a good bow tie, but I think I have found my calling."
For Katie Thompson, her first love was bow ties. A born-and-raised southerner, she began at the University of South Carolina as a fashion merchandising major, but life had other plans for her.
A friend convinced her to run for a seat in the student senate.
After winning the election, she changed her major to public relations, added a political science minor, and joined College Republicans.
Her political career was launched.
"I first learned about the Leadership Institute at my very first College Republican meeting," she said.
After attending an August 2010 Leadership Institute Grassroots Workshop that covered communications, fundraising, and get-out-the-vote tactics, Katie was elected student body vice president on campus.
While browsing LI’s ConservativeJobs.com website, Katie saw a posting for a Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) intern at the American Conservative Union.
"In addition to the trainings, LI was how I found my first DC internship,” Katie said. “That (CPAC) internship was the springboard for my entire political future. Without the Leadership Institute, I know I would not have made it up to DC."
After interning for CPAC, Katie went on to intern with the National Republican Senatorial Committee, working to create "Twitter Action Teams" to influence social media in key states.
“Going to school, working on campaigns, and going to Leadership Institute trainings are all very important steps to developing your talents and deciding where in politics you want to fall. But my biggest advice to conservatives looking for employment is to take an internship that may be outside of your skill set,” Katie said.
“When I came to DC I first took an internship with the American Conservative Union as their CPAC intern to learn about large scale conference planning and then I came back to our nation’s capital to work in the digital shop at the NRSC,” she continued. “Those internships dropped me straight into the deep end in areas which I wasn’t entirely comfortable with. Both experiences challenged me immensely, but I learned more in those collective eight months than I ever had in a classroom. Take the plunge and try something new, you’ll surprise yourself about what you’re capable of.”
She also has worked for the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit, Joe Wilson for Congress, and as the public relations director of NextGen Journal.
Three years later—in February 2013—Katie attended another LI training: the Youth Leadership School (YLS) held in Wilmington, NC.
“LI’s YLS in February taught me so much about youth engagement on races. From recruiting campus reps all the way down to how to carve your candidates name in the grass on the side of the highway. The amount of information we received in that training added exponentially to my campaign knowledge,” Katie said. “The South Carolina students who came with me are now pros in how to canvass. Thanks, LI!”
This past May, Katie was elected national secretary for the College Republican National Committee.
“It was truly an honor to be elected as national secretary for the CRNC this past May along with Alex Smith and her team. She’s the first woman chairman in the organization’s 125 year history. The College Republican National Committee is entering a new era both within our organization and how we reach out to young voters. For the Virginia’s gubernatorial race, the CRNC ran a little ad called “Terryfish,” she said. “Terryfish coupled with the hundreds of college republicans from across the country who came to Virginia to knock on doors won Ken Cuccinelli the 18 to 24 year old vote,” she said.
The youth effort for the Cuccinelli for Governor campaign was led by three full-time youth coordinators who also took LI's Youth Leadership School and activism trainings. They facilitated youth participation at the grassroots level and were placed by the Conservative Leadership PAC, founded by Morton Blackwell, also president of the Leadership Institute.
Katie is looking forward to helping win the youth vote in the 2014 elections and in growing her foreign policy knowledge and experiences.
"I would describe the Leadership Institute as one of the most important resources to any budding young conservative. LI trains up-and-coming campaign managers, congressmen, and leaders,” she said. "The Leadership Institute for decades now has been producing young stars who will change the world. I could not be more thankful for LI’s role in my political future and my vision to change politics as we know it."
Please congratulate Katie Thompson for finding her calling in youth politics, and please applaud her for receiving LI’s Conservative Leader-In-Training Award.
To nominate a Leadership Institute graduate or faculty member for the Conservative Leader Award or Conservative Leader-In-Training Award, please contact LI's Director of External Affairs Lauren Day, at Lauren@LeadershipInstitute.org.