Changing His Future: Student Jesse Lippold has defied expectations as a successful local politician

Photo Courtesy: Jesse Lippold

Jesse Lippold, a 21-year-old business student here at Linn-Benton, recently became a politician after during Salem’s special election. Although Lippold appears as a bright student with a lot of drive to him, he revealed that his childhood wasn’t exactly picturesque.

Lippold scored the special election vote to become part of Salem’s school board. He’s taking his experiences with homelessness and the foster care system with him on this new journey. He’s a man who believes that people are stronger together than apart.

Here, he tells The Commuter his goals for his nonprofit, the community, and the Salem-Keizer school district.

Tell me what you’re majoring in here at LBCC. What exactly do you want to do with the degree?

I am majoring in business, I want to get my MBA. For me it’s not about the degree. The degree is just a piece of paper. The knowledge I learn while getting the degree I want to use to own my own businesses, and build my nonprofit.

What are your intentions for your nonprofit Salem Together?

We live in a time with our country so polarized, and I think it is important that we come together at the end of the day. We all have similar goals when it comes to helping our neighbors, and I want to use the talent and skills of our community to solve these problems. We want Salem Together to be ran by the people, so we will be looking for people in our community who want to make a difference to take leadership roles, and be a part of this.

The best part about Salem Together is that it is 100 percent local. We will never extend past the Salem-Metro area and the few towns surrounding it. Every dollar donated is invested into your own community. This way you can see the difference you have made in your community with your donations and volunteer work.

Salem Together has four main categories including kids, mentally ill, homeless, and people in poverty. In order for our cities to thrive, I believe we need to take care of the people in our community. Salem Together is a vehicle that allows us to do that, and gives us the freedom to help those who may not fit 100 percent into one category.

You list “mentally ill” as a key demographic you’d like to assist as one of your goals. What is your experience with people with mental disorders and mental illnesses?

My birth mother has Schizophrenia, and in foster care I was surrounded by kids with mental illness.

Much of our society has decided that they don’t want these people in our lives, so they ignore the issue until it goes away. Now many people that are mentally ill and should be dependent are roaming the streets. I want to give these people a better life by teaching them skills, so they can continue to learn. Then eventually, I want to have a transportation service and a housing facility.

A big part of educating students is helping students with learning disorders. What are your personal experiences with people who have a learning disorder, and how would you best help them?

I have been around mental disorders my entire life, and we all are. You can’t just look at a person and know if they have a mental disorder. Many of our mentally ill look just like regular people, and act like regular people, though behind the veil is a disorder that truly affects their lives. Some are so affected by their illness that they are dependent on others and not able to work.

As a director on the Salem/Keizer School Board, this matters a lot to me. In order to get more of our kids to graduate, we need to help ALL kids, including those at risk like the kids with mental illness. As an older brother to many siblings, and a leader in my community, I believe we need to help these people have a good life because it’s the right thing to do. By helping those unable to help themselves, we can change their lives, clean up our streets, and set up our community for success in the future.

To continue with the theme of outreach ─ since that’s your end goal as a member of the school board ─ what do you see lacking with Salem public schools at this time? How do you want to improve outreach to other foster and homeless students?

In Oregon, we have one of the lowest graduation rates in the country. Our graduation rates are lower in every race, gender, and demographic. That is interesting, because we spend a lot more money on education per student than many other states. It seems like every other tax or bill passed has the possibility of “going towards education” when they present it to us. The problem is that where they say it will go, and will it actually goes are two different things. So holding our legislative accountable would make a huge difference.

There was a survey sent out in our district asking dropouts why they never graduated. The top reason was that they didn’t feel motivated to get their High School Diploma. We need to do a better job of building value in our high school diploma. We need to knock down some of the common core, so that our students actually learn things in school, rather than memorize a few answers.

Having been a foster kid, and a homeless student, I know how hard it is to learn in an unstable environment. It’s hard to write or learn math when you are worried about if you get to have dinner that night.

Finally, what can students here at LBCC do to make their time here at college better for themselves and others?

The best thing you can do as a student is figure out what you want, and know why you want it. With motivation as the number-one reason to drop out, it is important to stay motivated.

Don’t be afraid to spread your wings. Some people get intimidated when they see others succeed, so they try to shoot you down. In college it is important to lose the fear of what others think and focus on what you want to achieve. Then when you achieve success, learn to lead by serving. By serving others, you will grow as a leader, and help others succeed as well.

If you are interested in learning how to run a business, do fundraising, or volunteer, become a part of Salem Together. If you have skills such as graphic design, photography, or just a big heart for helping others, come join us. Salem Together is for the people, and is ran by the people. It is a great way for a student to apply their skills and use them in a real world environment.

Story by Morgan Connelly

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