WIU Alumna Turns Passion Into Career

What goes up must come down, but if you ask the twirlers at Ambition Baton and Dance Studio in Iowa City, there’s no limit to how high they can go.

“I’ve twirled in Costa Rica,” studio owner Jessica Baker said. “I’ve twirled in Mexico. I’ve twirled in Paris. I’ve twirled in the Czech Republic. I’ve been everywhere.”

Western Illinois University alumna Jessica Baker has been twirling her way through life since the age of five. Her talent has helped her compete in pageants and lead her to be the feature twirler at WIU. Baker says performing has always been her passion.

“I like to say we have the ability of a track star, the endurance of a gymnast, and the gracefulness of a dancer, and you put them all together, and you’re a baton twirler,” she said.

Since graduating from WIU in the spring of 2015, her talent has brought her to teaching.

“When I had to pick, is it teaching or performing, I always fell toward the teaching side,” she said. “I think going to Western and being part of the dance program also kind of helped me.”

The 24-year-old is a business owner. Ambition has been around for eight years, but this is the first time they have had a permanent space to call home.

“All of a sudden it was like, you have to make a choice,” Baker said. “You’re either going to go get a sales job, or you’re going to open a studio, and you’re going to do it now. So I opened the studio and within two weeks of finding the place we were teaching classes out of it.”

Jessica is not the only Baker girl who loves to twirl. Her younger sister Julia refers to Jessica not only as her sister, but also her coach.

“We don’t fight that much,” 18-year old Julia Baker said with a laugh. “Every now and then we bicker, but it’s actually been really nice having my sister as my coach because it makes her schedule and my schedule very flexible for us. She’s always excited. She’s always ready to teach.”

Jessica may not be the last Leatherneck in the family to twirl at Hanson Field. Julia is considering following her sister’s footsteps in the fall.

“I went there, and I ended up really liking the campus, and the band people were really nice to me,” Julia said. “I find it really exciting.”

The Baker sisters are cheering each other on one baton trick at a time.