To York College alum, “History is more than just dead guys and dates.”
Jamie Kinsley ’12 remembers exactly where she was when she first heard the phrase she now has tattooed on her upper back: “Don’t follow blindly.”
It was her sophomore year at York College of Pennsylvania during a conversation with her friend about religion. Her friend said that it was okay to be a follower in life, but always do your research. “Whether you’re Republican, Democrat, Christian or whatever you choose to identify with, it’s important that you don’t follow blindly and educate yourself,” Jamie says.
At York College, she dual-majored in History and Secondary Education Social Studies, which reinforced her belief in the phrase. “History is more than just dead guys and dates,” she says. “It’s understanding the choices our ancestors made before us and making informed decisions based on them.”
Doing her research
In 2011, Jamie had the chance to back up her belief in informed decision-making. She attended a council meeting in her hometown of Yoe, York County, hoping to convince the borough to continue its recycling efforts.
She came to the meeting armed with a sheet of facts about why recycling was important and how it would save the Earth for future generations. No decision was made, but a few days later, a council member approached her. Jamie’s argument was so compelling that he wanted her to run for an open seat on the council.
A few months later, the then 20-year-old was named to the Yoe Borough Council. Had it not been for a politics class she took with Professor Lori Mitrick—a former York County Commissioner—she wouldn’t have been in a position to save recycling in the borough, Jamie says. “It was empowering to hear this thing in class, then go out to these meetings that are real, to speak, be recognized, and be asked to be on the council.”
Mitrick did more than just break down politics into a simple, easy-to-digest format; she became a role model. “As a woman, it was great to learn from someone so powerful, direct and who looked like me,” Jamie says. “It made it more real that I could do it and succeed.”
Being a role model
Today, Jamie focuses her energy on teaching the importance of history wherever she can. She joined the Milton Hershey School in Hershey as an American Cultures teacher in 2013 and began writing a history blog, Wandering in York County, in 2018.
The blog serves as a personal mission to make history more accessible and appealing to the average person. “I want to make sure the next generation is into history,” she says. “I want it to be younger and more diverse so people can make the most educated decisions possible.”
Her role at the Milton Hershey School not only gives her that opportunity, but the ability to be a role model for the school’s students, who come from lower-income families and some who face tough home situations.
“Every day I wake up, and I have a purpose,” Jamie says. “It’s powerful to know you can have an influence in someone’s life. These students need someone in their corner all the time, and it forces me to put my best foot forward because I don’t ever want to let them down.”