Becoming engaged at any age

A public policy intern explains why he loves public service and how 4-H Capitol Experience helped him discover his passion.

For the past three years Domonique Clemons could be viewed as the “face” of Michigan State University Extension’s 4-H Capitol Experience. I took the opportunity to ask the Michigan State University sophomore majoring in public policy what led him to his role as public policy intern. He said it all began with his own experience as a 4-H Capitol Experience participant.

“I first attended Capitol Experience my sophomore year in high school. Up until that point I had no interest in government or politics at all. I did not know much about our electoral system, or how state government worked,” Clemons said.

“After attending Capitol Experience, I learned a lot about how policy was created in Michigan and became very interested in the political process.” He continued by explaining that, “having the opportunity to see government in action helped me to become more interested in what was going on. During my time at 4-H Capitol Experience I learned that young people could have an impact on government and that they could really make a difference. I learned a great deal about different leadership styles and I came to understand that even teenagers could become leaders in their communities. When I returned home from 4-H Capitol Experience I made the decision that I wanted to take what I learned and become more active in my community and in our state. I started volunteering with local organizations in my area and volunteered on political campaigns.” 

I asked Clemons if he had any advice to young people who may be interested in becoming involved.

“Just jump in and start,” he said. “There are so many things that youth can do in their community. It can be as simple as attending local council meetings and speaking during public comment time or participating in a rally for a cause that they believe in. They could even start their own rally.

“It is very important that young people are vocal when it comes to issues that they feel passionate about. Campaigns are always looking for young and energetic people to volunteer as well. My first experience volunteering on a political campaign was the summer after 10th grade, when I was only 16 years old. I think that government and politics often discourage young people and it becomes easy to feel removed from the whole process. It’s important to remember that those people serving in government are just average people that you can have a conversation with. They have been elected by the people and have to answer to the citizens (and that includes the youth).” 

When asked where he hopes to take advantage of his current experience and his future degree, Clemons said he is interested in public office.

“I believe it’s important to get young people engaged in government, but even more important to have young people serving in elected positions. I believe in order to create sound legislation that will be good for everyone in the state we need to have all types of people seated at the table. Young people can bring a unique perspective to policy issues based on how it affects them now, as well as how it could change our future. I personally am interested in public office because I see so much that can be done in my community and around the state that is not being done. This last legislative session has especially sparked my interest in running for public office.”

MSU Extension offers training in board development, meeting management and facilitation, strategic visioning and planning, in addition to general leadership skills educational programs. To contact an expert in your area, visit MSU Extension’s Find an Expert page or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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