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Published: Wednesday, 7/19/2006

Native of Tiffin attends debate over proposal

Beth Kolbe, 20, a junior at Harvard, is an intern for Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.). Beth Kolbe, 20, a junior at Harvard, is an intern for Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.).

Beth Kolbe had a hard time pulling herself away from the Senate floor yesterday where the latest debate over federal funding of stem cell research was raging.

The Tiffin native, who is working as an intern this summer for Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.), had asked Mr. Kerry last week if she could join him on the floor for the debate. He agreed, then talked about her in remarks he made in support of the legislation during the Senate debate.

"He talked about me as a personal story of someone he knows who could benefit from stem cell research - about my being an intern in his office, about my injury," she said in a telephone interview from Washington.

In 2000, Ms. Kolbe, 20, suffered a spinal cord injury in an auto accident that left her a quadriplegic. She said she believes stem cell research could lead to a cure for her and many others.

"This bill will allow federal funding for stem cell lines and I support that, as does the senator," she said.

Ms. Kolbe was a passenger in a car driven by her mother, Cindy, on May 20, 2000, when her mother fell asleep at the wheel and the car overturned. She said they were returning from a concert of her brother's and were just 20 minutes from home when the crash occurred.

Her injury hasn't slowed her down, though.

A champion swimmer, she graduated from Tiffin Columbian High School in 2004 and will be a junior this fall at Harvard University, where she is majoring in biology and health care. At Mr. Kerry's office, she has been doing research for the senator on health-care legislation.

"From the very beginning, her attitude was, what can I do, not what can't I do," said her father, John Kolbe.

"As her Dad, I'm just intensely proud of her. She's a courageous young lady. How many 20-years-olds spent the day on the floor of the U.S. Senate tracking an issue that's so important to them? She's the whole package."

Ms. Kolbe said she understands the opposition to stem cell research but she doesn't agree with it. "I don't feel a ball of cells has any bearing compared to someone who is a full-fledged human being, so it's not trading life for life," she said. "I don't believe the ball of cells has a life."

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