"For my first few years at Indiana University, like many college students, I had little idea of what I wanted to major in, never mind what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. From business, to pre-med, to psychology, just to name a few, I jumped around vastly different prospective majors. But in what now seems like a flash, due to a confluence of events, I became completely enthralled with politics. Every day, I would read the newspaper and countless other articles to remain up-to-date on the latest news and analyses. My television rarely changed from the news. I lived, breathed, and dreamed politics, and I loved it. But soon enough, I began to yearn for a way to become even more involved – to actually affect the change that was happening around me. The Political and Civic Engagement (PACE) Program filled that void.
Once again, in what now seems like a flash, I became intimately involved with virtually all aspects of the PACE Program. From Issue Forum moderator and planner, to Leadership Council member, to National Conference on Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD) speaker on behalf of PACE – if there was an opportunity to be more involved with PACE, I would seize it. I was honored to receive the 2014 Hutton PACE Program Scholar Award for my contributions to the program, but what I received from my involvement with PACE went far beyond this award.
Looking back, my experiences with PACE laid the groundwork for both the decisions I would make and the successes I would achieve down the road. For example, my PACE internship at a foreign policy-related political action committee (PAC) led me to pursue a Master’s Degree in Government, Diplomacy & Conflict Studies in Israel, which I recently attained Summa Cum Laude. Immediately after graduating, the desire to affect change that PACE instilled in me was also seen in my decision to intern for a candidate for U.S. Congress in my district who I greatly admired (and still admire). Both studying abroad and working on a congressional campaign were completely new to me, but my work with PACE prepared me for these experiences and helped me to quickly and seamlessly adapt.
Now, I currently work as a Legislative Fellow in the U.S. House of Representatives for my own congressman, Representative Josh Gottheimer. After interning on his campaign, I have been proud to work for Congressman Gottheimer, who is now co-Chair of the Congressional Problem Solvers Caucus. In addition to the personal gratitude I receive from working for my own district and for my family, friends, and fellow citizens who live in it, this capacity has provided me with tremendous opportunities. My previous experiences with the PACE Program have helped me to successfully capitalize on each of these new opportunities. For example, my time moderating democratic deliberations with PACE has allowed me to effectively work with people from different backgrounds and with differing points of views (this ability was also extremely useful while studying abroad, where working across different languages was commonplace as well).
Similarly, I recently finished leading our office’s appropriations process for fiscal year (FY) 2018, where my ability to organize and contend with competing interests was also vital. Although nothing could have fully prepared me for the variety of interests that converge on Capitol Hill, the PACE Program allowed me to learn about and engage with people holding differing viewpoints, while working toward common sense solutions.
To be sure, these are only a few of the ways that the PACE Program has prepared me for my post-graduate and professional journey. The team-building and -working skills that I gained through my many PACE Issue Forum planning and Leadership Council experiences have also been critical – as have many others.
What started out as just one PACE course began a significant personal, academic, and professional transformation that has led me to where I am today. Overall, my involvement in the PACE program both fed and increased my desire to engage in politics and with my community. The PACE Program has given me so much both in terms of my personal and professional development, and for that I am truly grateful.
If anyone has additional questions about my PACE journey or about anything else in general, please feel free to contact me through the PACE office (firstname.lastname@example.org). I am always happy to help any way that I can."