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Meet 'The Most Active Students In The State Of Texas'

Bob Dole and Junior Fellows
Posing with former Senator Bob Dole on his recent visit to the Sam Houston State University campus were from left, Junior Fellow alum Emily Johnson, Junior Fellows Lacy True, Ademide Adedokun, Fidel Esparza and Amy Kirker, Orange Key Adriane Hensley, Senator Dole, Junior Fellows Blake Roach, Amanda Dinbali, Sandra Arteaga and Shawn Stanton, Orange Key Bobbie Warner, student regent Maggie Manzano, SHSU President Jim Gaertner and Junior Fellow Megan Bryant.

Their adviser refers to them as "the most active students in the state of Texas." Their commitment to government and community service is not what you would expect from today's college student.

They are the 10 members of the Political Science Junior Fellows. A quick look at their five-week schedule during this October and November shows why Mike Yawn can make that bold statement.

Yawn, clinical assistant professor in political science at Sam Houston State University, lists 12 different events and activities, beginning on Oct. 6 and ending Nov. 14. They include:

  • Oct. 6 - Volunteered at Fair on the Square for Republican, Democrat, and Veterans' Booths, including help with setting up and closing shop;
  • Oct. 11-13 - Flew to Akron, Ohio, for American Association of Political Consultants event, visited Rock and Roll and Pro Football Hall of Fames;
  • Oct. 14 - Attended presentation by Huntsville's director of community services on opportunities in local government;
  • Oct. 15 - Attended speech by Vicente Fox, former president of Mexico;
  • Oct. 19 -21 - Attended New Politics Forum in Austin, visited Bob Bullock Museum of Texas History and LBJ Presidential Library;
  • Oct. 22 - Breakfast with Senator Bob Dole at SHSU;
  • Oct. 22 - Lunch with State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, followed by hour-long lecture;
  • Oct. 25: Hosted symposium for undergraduates interested in graduate school programs, lunched with speakers for one-on-one discussions;
  • Oct. 31 - Volunteered at Scare on the Square, operating own booth providing activities and treats for children on Halloween and helping with other booths as volunteers;
  • Nov. 5 - Hosted opening of Art Gallery reception for Veterans Appreciation Week, with more than 40 elected officials and local veterans including World War II hero Col. M.B. Etheredge signing his recently released biography;
  • Nov. 7 -11 - Visit to Washington, D. C. to tour historical sites attend a performance at the Kennedy Center, have breakfast with elected officials, meet with potential employers, and attend informational sessions on graduate programs at George Washington University.
  • Nov. 13 -14 - Assist with greeting and escorting Sam Houston State University board of regents members and guests to and from various functions during their meeting at SHSU.
students and Dole
Blake Roach, left, and Shawn Stanton meet Bob Dole.

The group's members say that although the pace is demanding, it is worth the effort.

"Time constraints have always been difficult," said Amanda Dinbali, the group's president. "But when you are part of an organization that does so much for the community you always are able to find the time to attend events and promote the organization."

Dinbali thinks that more students should become involved in service activities, even if it is not at the same level as the Fellows, to overcome the perception that theirs is a selfish generation.

"Political graduates such as myself are going to be able to do so much for the country," Dinbali said. "With the stigma that is given to our generation, I think that it is our purpose to overcome that and become major fore runners in not only politics but community relations."

Many of the members prepare for what they see as their ultimate entry into public service by serving as interns with elected officials, candidates or former officials. Some of those have included Congressman Kevin Brady, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Senator John McCain, the city of College Station, Nancy Bocskor Consulting, Houston Mayor Bill White, and others.

students and Dole
Also chatting with Bob Dole are, from left, Emily Johnson, Megan Bryant, Sandra Arteaga and Blake Roach.

One of the keys to preparing for political service is learn first hand about community service. Yawn estimates that each student devotes 40-60 hours per semester to worthwhile causes.

Some of these include the HEARTS Veterans Museum in Huntsville, the Houston Forum, the World Affairs Council, the U. S. - Arab Bilateral Commission, the British-American Business Council, the Huntsville Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Huntsville, the city of Huntsville, the city of Houston, and Sam Houston State University.

The travel is extensive--the Junior Fellows have taken more than 40 field trips this year. They have attended lectures, seminars and dinners featuring figures as diverse as Bill Clinton, both Presidents Bush, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, actor Alan Alda, physicist Stephen Hawking, Gov. Mitt Romney, Author Douglas Brinkley, in addition to those on the October/November schedule.

The organization is only two years ago, but students have visited six presidential libraries, seven state capitols, and historical, cultural and political sites such as the American Jazz Museum, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Pro Football Hall of Fame, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and all of the significant memorials and sites of interest in Washington, D. C.

To be considered for eligibility, a student must have a 3.0 (B) or better grade point average, possess integrity, have a record of public service, and pass interviews with university and Junior Fellow officials as well as a test of their civic knowledge and engagement.

Yawn said that students receive some financial help from the university's Student Services division for travel, and occasionally from organizations or individuals who are aware of their activities. They did their first fund-raiser this past summer, raising $4,500 for the HEARTS Veterans Museum and educational scholarships, but a portion was allocated for operational costs and travel scholarships.

While the organization is only two years old, it already has an impressive list of alumni who have moved on to government and community service. These include:

  • Katie Granger, deputy finance director for the Bob Schaffer for Senate campaign;
  • Tiffany Dillard, in her second year at the SMU Law School;
  • Emily Johnson, in her first year at the Bush School of Public Service at Texas A&M;
  • Brandon Reese, director of the Huntsville office of Congressman Kevin Brady;
  • Rowdy Salazar, manager of the Aquatic Center in Huntsville;
  • Brynn Reynolds, budget analyst for the city of Huntsville; and
  • Amy Jacks, who works for Nancy Bocskor Consulting in Washington.

Most of the members want to go to law school, work on political campaigns, or work in some area of government or public administration, said Yawn. All are sure that they can make a difference.

"Political Science majors are the future leaders of America," said member Ademide Adedokun.

"In this time when people express such negativity about the youth of America and our apathy towards the political process it is inspiring to be studying with people who care about their communities," said Adedokun. "I believe that they will take their interests and the skills they have acquired from political science and make a difference in this country."

Members and active alumni this semester include Emily Johnson, Rowdy Salazar, and Brandon Reese as active alumni and current members Sandra Arteaga, Megan Bryant, Amanda Dinbali, Fidel Esparza, Amy Kirker, Blake Roach, Lacy True, Ademide Adedokun, Shawn Stanton and Heather Sorrells.


SHSU Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
Nov. 8, 2007
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