Public Affairs Manager

Jessica was born and raised in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (the heart of Amish Country; though she could never live without running water and modern technology).

With a father who works in politics and a social worker for a mother, Jessica grew up with a unique perspective on what a fulfilling career would look like. She is an only child, although she now shares her parents with a treat-loving, nocturnal rescue cat named Sheldon who she is pretty sure has surpassed her in the rankings for her parents’ favorite.

After graduating from Elizabethtown Area High School, Jessica headed to Connecticut to attend Quinnipiac University and work at the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. She graduated magna cum laude in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and a minor in marketing.

After college, Jessica joined the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Working as a press aide and then a communications specialist, Jessica learned the full scope of Pennsylvania’s educational landscape and the obstacles standing in the way of students in the Keystone State. The DOE is also where she met her husband, Jordan.

When they’re not at work, Jessica and Jordan can be found playing golf (Jessica really only goes to drive the golf cart), rooting on the Philadelphia Eagles and hosting epic game nights with friends.

I aspire to be like my mom. Here’s why:

My mom, Karen Hickernell, is an amazing woman who goes to work every day at a healthcare center where she works as a social worker for people who are in the last stages of their lives. Despite what could be a very depressing and taxing career, my mom sees her job as an opportunity to get to know some amazing individuals who come to her with a lifetime of experiences and knowledge.

If I can exude a fraction of the optimism and enthusiasm in my life that my mom does, I would be happy.

Why I love my job:

After four years working in the educational and political system, it can be hard to remember what we are all fighting for: the students who need the knowledge and skills to be successful adults. At PennCAN I am reminded every day that time is of the essence for thousands of kids sitting in classrooms across the Commonwealth, waiting for their chance to receive a world-class education. That opportunity is going to come from communities who stand up and demand that a child’s zip code should not determine the quality of their education.

My connection to public schools:

In hindsight, I had a really great elementary and secondary public education experiences, but I took the resources and opportunities I had for granted. When I went to college I spent a few semesters volunteering for an educational charity in New Haven, CT. This experience opened my eyes to urban education and the unique challenges faced by these students.

What I’m bad at:

Crafts. For the life of me I try to be crafty but despite my enthusiasm and boxes of supplies it never turns out well. The one and only time I produced something of any quality was an abstract painting I had to do for a class in college. My parents were so impressed (and surprised) they hung it up in the house…and I have been chasing that high ever since.

The image that represents why I work at 50CAN:

Luck should never be a determining factor in whether or not a student in this country receives a high-quality education. Unfortunately, thousands of parents each year must enter their child into a lottery system for a chance to attend a charter school or receive a scholarship to attend a non-public school, because they feel that the traditional public school is not meeting their needs.

My dream is to one day live in a world where every student receives the same world-class education regardless of their address or socioeconomic status.

Image source: Marlon E on Flickr (cc)