Destin native lands prestigious spot in Tallahassee

Jennie McKeon
Coppola and Class Nine of the Florida Fellows with Governor Rick Scott.

Destin native Courtney Coppola’s fellowship with the governor’s office may take her ringside — no, not fights between political parties, but an actual boxing match.

Selected from among hundreds of applicants, the Florida State University graduate student is one in 10 of the current class of Florida Gubernatorial Fellows, a program that gives Florida's future leaders the chance to work within specific departments of the state government.

Coppola's nine-months in the Executive Office will be spent at the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), working for Secretary Ken Lawson.

"He is such an energetic and engaging leader," Coppola said of Lawson.

The DBPR licenses and regulates businesses and professionals in the State of Florida. Since the fellowship began in August, Coppola has been able to sit in on pre-legislative meetings and help prepare plans for the legislative session. Through the program, she'll eventually shadow restaurant and hotel inspections, and cycle through almost every division of DBPR.

"This week, I'm helping prepare a food truck fair, since they are part of what we license," the 22-year-old said in late September. "Next week, I might be able to see a boxing match, since boxing is a profession and regulated by the state — who knew that literally next week, I might get to see a fight in Orlando?"

The Florida Gubernatorial Fellow was established in 2004 by former Gov. Jeb Bush, and is open to all Florida graduate and undergraduate students from public or private schools. The nine-month program allows fellows to work in the Executive Office of the Governor or in the Governor's agencies, depending on each individual's interests and area of study. Coppola already holds a bachelor's degree in political science and  is currently working on her master's degree in applied American politics and policy.

"I heard about the fellows when I was interning at the Governor's Cabinet Affair's office," Coppola to The Log. "It offers a high level of experience and exposure. It also helps with my tuition since it's a paid position."

The application process is competitive, with hundreds of undergrad and graduate students applying. According to the Florida Fellows website, selected students exemplify the highest character at all times, they are extremely active in their communities, pursue leadership roles when working in a team and are constantly looking for ways to improve themselves and help improve those around them.

"I applaud these students for their outstanding academic, leadership and service-oriented accomplishments,” said Gov. Scott in a press release.

As part of the program, Coppola and the nine other fellows meet weekly to participate in educational activities such as presentations, press conferences, policy briefings or to conduct community service.

"There are such amazing people in our class; no two are the same," Coppola said. "I'm just trying to soak up as much as I can from them."

While Coppola is still undecided how she'd like to utilize her degrees and experience, she's able to explore options through the Fellow program.

"I'm just grateful to be here," she said. "It continues to open more doors and opportunities I didn't know were possible."

As a Floridian, Coppola has a true passion for her home state — and hometown. She looks forward to a future career working with leaders to help improve the state and the communities within — including Destin.

 "I'm a local, but now through the Florida Fellows, I'm elevating my experience to the statewide level," she said. " I really like working with state leaders who want to improve our state and communities. I enjoy doing the work to make it happen."