Natchez native walks hall of CongressPublished 12:01am Wednesday, August 14, 2013
NATCHEZ — Ro’chelle Williams spent his summer walking the halls with some of the most powerful political figures in the country.
The Natchez native spent two months in Washington, D.C., interning for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Leadership Institute for Public Service, which offers a summer program for college students to learn about the legislative process, leadership and public policy careers.
Williams, who graduated from Natchez High School in 2010 and is currently a senior at Tougaloo College, spent the summer working on Capitol Hill where he attended seminars led by policy experts, researched controversial issues and worked closely with members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
“It was momentous because every day I would walk the halls that former presidents walked through at the Capitol building,” Williams said. “Millions of people come through that building, and I got to be one of them this summer.”
Williams was one of 1,000 students from across the nation to apply, one of the 400 student whose applications were accepted and one of 40 students who made it into the internship program.
“It was a very long process, but I was ecstatic when I found out I got it,” he said. “It was a great honor to be selected especially because I was the only person from Mississippi to apply.”
Part of the application process required Williams to write responses to three short-essay questions — one of which asked him to write about an issue he felt plagued his community.
“One of the issues I wrote about was the ailing education system in Mississippi,” Williams said. “I talked about how we could reform our current education system and maybe model it after some of the states that are in the top five for education in the country.”
Williams left for Washington on May 26 and stayed on the campus of George Washington University during his two-month stay.
“We were three minutes from the State Department, five minutes from all the monuments and six blocks from the White House,” Williams said. “It was perfect.”
Williams said he was also fortunate to be in Washington this summer when the Supreme Court handed down several landmark decisions.
“I was there when the Supreme Court overturned the Voting Rights Act and when they struck down DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act),” he said. “It was a very historic time to be in D.C.”
But the most memorable part of the internship, Williams said, was getting the opportunity to meet Nancy Pelosi, minority leader and former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“I stood behind her during a press conference about student loans and then she came afterward and spoke with me about how loans are affecting students,” Williams said. “It was a great experience getting to meet her.”
Williams said he returned from his internship with a renewed sense of confidence in the nation’s democratic and lawmaking process.
“I’m a big advocate for helping people, and I just keep noticing there are a lot of things in our state that need change,” Williams said. “Politics is one way to give back to the people because you hear their problems and then make laws to help them.”
Williams is a political science major at Tougaloo with an emphasis in pre-law and plans to attend law school after graduation in May 2014.