By Curt Yeomans
Georgia College and State University sophomore Rachel Stephens only changed her major to political science at the beginning of this year. But the Riverdale native will be getting real-life experience, this summer, in how some of the concepts she is learning in the classroom play out in the arena that is the United States Capitol.
Stephens, 20, is beginning a two-month internship this week in the Washington, D.C., office of U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.). The internship, which runs through July 25, is offered by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.
"I really can't wait to get up there and get started," Stephens said in a telephone interview last week. "My passion is being the change you want in the world, so I'm looking forward to meeting the people who are already doing that."
The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's internship program was started in 1976. Its purpose is to provide college students with an overview of how the government works, enhance their professional development, network with officials in the nation's capital, and to encourage more young African-Americans to pursue a career in public service, said Ervin Johnson, the foundation's program coordinator, who oversees the internship program.
Johnson said Stephens will be one of 45 college students, and recent college graduates, who are participating in the internship program this summer. "We ask that they have a strong commitment to public service, public policy and community service," Johnson said. "The purpose is to expose them to public service, and to see if this is where they want to be."
Stephens, a 2007 graduate of North Clayton High School, said she received notice of her acceptance into the foundation's internship program last month, and was "so excited" to hear she would be participating. She said the participants in the internship program are staying in dorm rooms at George Washington University.
"I'm really excited because I'm still relatively new to political science, and to go to Washington, D.C., is the greatest experience a political science major could ask for," said Stephens, who is also the president of the American Democracy Project chapter at Georgia College and State University. "Hopefully, I'll come back and inspire other members [to see] we can make a difference in the community," she said.
Michael Andel, the chief of staff in Scott's Washington office, said Stephens and other interns in the office will assist the full-time staffers with a variety of tasks for the congressman, including leading tours and attending congressional hearings.
"It is my hope that my interns will learn enough about their government that they can take their knowledge back to school and leverage that knowledge into positive force for change," Andel said in a written statement.
Stephens said she is considering possibly running for elected office some day, but has not yet decided if that is a path she wants to pursue in life. Everything is on the table at this point, she said.
"I'm definitely considering my options right now," Stephens said. "I'm trying to figure out how I can help people improve their lives, and public service may be the best route to get there."