Leadership by example finds
home on student council
Student council presidents don’t tend to be average, but Kesler Schneider isn’t even your average student council president.
“Kesler had to overcome a lot of obstacles without the tools that a lot of other kids have in their families, and that’s part of why he has a lot of empathy and so many other kids look up to him,” said Oregon City High School Principal Marji Ruzicka.
When asked by Pamplin Media Group what the principal was referring to, Kesler said that he’s gone public with his life story in part because he wants to inspire others who might be struggling.
“It was really hard to talk about it at first and come out of that shell, but it was important to help my classmates,” he said.
Kesler grew up with a single mother, and after his family became homeless, he had to couch-surf before eventually moving in with his grandma. Living situations like Kesler’s are common, with nearly 4% of students in Oregon classified as homeless under the McKinney-Vento Act, a federal law to protect children’s rights to free public education even if they lack a permanent address.
Kesler thanked his school district’s McKinney-Vento coordinators and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Sara Deboy for helping him stay enrolled in Oregon City schools even while he was often finding places to sleep outside of town.
While he was successful in staying enrolled, Kesler said he suffered from shyness that worsened during the forced isolation of the pandemic. As government restrictions receded, he resolved to get involved in “anything that I can get my hands on, and anything that’s remotely achievable,” he said, adding, “I only have one chance to experience high school, so I might as well do everything.”
Cheerleading coach Lisa Ramage said she sought out Kesler to join the team because she saw how he engages so well with various other student groups. In her nine years as cheerleading coach, Ramage had only one boy to join the team who dropped out before competitions, but she knew Kesler could spur the team’s diversification.
“I thought Kesler would be that glue that I’ve always been trying to create here, and he’s really unique and special,” she said.
Ramage’s faith in Kesler wasn’t misplaced, since he brought three male friends to join the cheerleading team with him, saying there’s no reason the sport should be limited by gender. They hope to have at least 10 boys on the team next year, up from zero last year.
In recognition of its increased participation and leadership development, the OCHS student council was recognized with a 2023 National Gold Council of Excellence award by the National Student Council. OCHS Student Council advisor and math teacher Tiffani Traver said Kesler has shown himself to be a great leader who truly works to include all students.
“He has a personality that is welcoming to all and this year has really strived to make OCHS a better place. He is a hard worker and will be missed next year, but we know he will accomplish amazing things,” Traver said.
Kesler has been accepted into the U.S. Navy’s nuclear engineering program for next year, but his impact at OCHS will be lasting. OCHS’s principal said he embodies the best of a young person through his exceptional leadership skills.
“Kesler leads by example and shows kindness and compassion for all his peers. He has a great sense of humor, is a humble leader and leads OCHS in a positive direction,” Ruzicka said.
OCHS couldn’t be prouder of Kesler.
“He just does things, and then other people think, ‘Well, if Kelser can do it, then I can too,’ so he’s become a natural leader that way,” Ruzicka said. “His positivity permeates our school, and he has instilled values for all our kids to care about our school and the world.”