Rachel Byers, a 2016 graduate of Loganville Christian Academy, is currently attending UGA and had the opportunity to do an internship with Governor Nathan Deal this past summer. The teachers at LCA recall how humble and sweet Rachel is, and they commented about how she always looked for opportunities to strengthen the student body while she was a student at LCA. We appreciate Rachel for responding to our request and taking the time to share with us how LCA helped to prepare her for this opportunity, what her future plans include, and what her advice would be to underclassmen who may be interested in pursuing a career in politics.
Since middle school, I have always been interested in politics and the local, state, and national issues that are facing our world. Over the summer before my senior year at LCA, I attended Girls State, a week-long camp in which girls from all over Georgia come together to create a mock government, run for office, and pass legislation. This week at Girls State solidified my passion for advocacy and played a huge part in my decision to pursue a degree in political science.
Currently, I am a junior at the University of Georgia majoring in Political Science and Communication Studies with a Public Affairs Certificate (PAC) in Applied Politics. In addition to Girls State, another part in my decision to major in Political Science was the small, close-knit environment of the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA), in which the Political Science department is housed at UGA. Secondly, I chose to major in Communications Studies due to my passion for writing and public speaking. Both majors are reading and writing intensive, which is an area in which I felt extremely prepared coming from LCA. All of my English teachers at LCA challenged my writing abilities and helped transform my writing into a mature voice. Majoring in Political Science and Communications has given me a plethora of opportunities to practice and grow these skills. Lastly, I decided to pursue a certificate in Applied Politics because of the amazing opportunities the program provides. The program heavily revolves around identifying and exploring the variety of professions within politics, such as campaigning, policymaking, polling, communications, and lobbying. Looking toward graduation, I believe this program will help me to determine what specific field of politics I want to pursue in the future.
One of the greatest gifts that Girls State brought me was one of my mentors, Representative Tom Kirby (R-Loganville). Before attending Girls State, Mrs. Gina Hawkins planned a breakfast for the students participating in Boys and Girls State with our local state legislator, Representative Kirby. This breakfast served as the beginning of an incredible mentorship. During my senior year of high school, I paged and shadowed Representative Kirby at the State Capitol, which played an important part of my final Senior Project. Since high school, I have stayed in contact with Representative Kirby who has continued to invest, encourage, and guide me throughout my college years.
Since graduating from LCA, I have interned for Congressman Jody Hice (GA-10) in his district office in Monroe, volunteered on a variety of campaigns for State House and State Senate, and most recently, interned for Governor Nathan Deal this past summer. My summer under the Gold Dome this year was informative, inspiring, yet challenging. My day-to-day responsibilities included answering phones, writing letters on behalf of Governor Deal to constituents, archiving all correspondence, and researching policy issues and legislation. Through this internship, I gained invaluable experience working in the state government and interacting with legislators, high-ranking state officials, and staffers. One of my favorite moments of my internship was having lunch with First Lady Sandra Deal in her personal kitchen in the Governor’s Mansion. I feel extremely blessed this summer to have worked under such an influential, successful, beloved statesman as Governor Deal.
At UGA, I am involved in the Student Government Association, which has given me the opportunity to lobby for issues pertinent to students at the State Capitol. This is something I hope to pursue later in my career within UGA’s Office of Government Relations at either the state or federal level. After graduating from UGA, I plan to either attend law school or work on Capitol Hill or under the Gold Dome.
To students interested in pursuing a career in politics, the biggest piece of advice I have to give is to make connections. The world of politics at both the state and national level is a “who knows who” game in which mutual friends and connections get jobs. Volunteering on a campaign, interning in an elected official’s office, or being an active member of your local Democratic or Republican Party are the easiest ways to make contacts. One year after interning for Congressmen Hice, I was contacted by his former District Director who offered me an internship on the phone with the Georgia Republican Party. While some tasks required of internships may feel mundane at times, hard work and positivity are qualities that political offices, parties, and campaigns do not forget and are always in need of. Maintain these relationships, challenge yourself to achieve excellence, and find ways to go above and beyond your job description, and you will find yourself going to big places!