By Kristie Thorson, Communications Specialist

When Katie Burke arrived at the Minnesota State Capitol several minutes before the doors opened on a frigid January morning, she had to find a construction worker to let her inside early because she couldn’t feel her fingers. 

Katie Burke outside the MN State Capitol.

“I froze.  I didn’t know it was possible to be that cold,” said Burke.

It was her first visit to the Capitol and her first time experiencing below zero temperatures. Born and raised in Helensburgh, Scotland, Burke moved to Minnesota in August.  The weather in her area of Scotland, a small town about an hour west of Glasgow, is mostly mild with temperatures ranging from 40-65 degrees year-round.  

“We don’t have snow where I’m from.  Just rain. A lot of rain,” said Burke.

The 22-year old is attending the University of Minnesota on a Fulbright scholarship—pursuing a Master’s degree in Human Rights.  She was recently selected to be the Todd Otis Public Policy Intern at Think Small during the 2019 legislative session.

The internship is a unique opportunity to learn firsthand about Minnesota’s early learning policy. It was established to honor Todd Otis’ lifelong advocacy career in Minnesota, and his work as a change-agent in early childhood.  Burke will work with Think Small’s policy team to advance early learning policy priorities.

Back in Scotland, Burke graduated from the University of St. Andrews.  The same school where Prince William met his wife, fellow student Kate Middleton. Burke has been involved with politics from a young age.  While her work involved advocating for children’s rights, she generally focused on older children. She led the Scottish Youth Parliament, the democratically elected voice of Scotland’s young people.  Elected at age 14, she served until age 21 making her one of the longest serving members to date. While she was in office, the Youth Parliament was able to lower the voting age to 16 for Scottish elections.  (Interesting fact:  You can vote at age 16, but you can’t get a driver’s license until age 18!)

“I am so excited to be getting this first-hand opportunity to learn about early childhood education in Minnesota,” said Burke.

When Burke isn’t working or attending school, you will find her reading or spending time with family—she actually has quite a few family members who live in and around the Twin Cities. She is also involved with a lot of student government activities at the University of Minnesota and she leads a girl scout troop in Burnsville.