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Opinion: Growing up in the People’s House

During my last semester of college, I wanted an adventure, a real experience being involved in the world of Missouri politics. I got the opportunity to earn college credits through an internship program. As a long-time reader of The Missouri Times and viewer of “This Week in Missouri Politics,” the chance to work under two titans in the state’s media industry, Scott Faughn and Kaitlyn Schallhorn, stuck out to me.

After I was accepted, I began my journey during the second week of session. For the first time in my life, I would be away from the greater St. Louis area for a significant period of time. I was nervous; I had no journalistic experience. I was the youngest and only Black statehouse reporter as a 20-year-old — yet Kaitlyn and Scott treated me with the respect of a 20-year veteran in the industry. I covered big stories in the House Committee on Elections and Elected Officials, the Senate Education Committee, and many other high-profile events in Missouri politics.

James Turner

Learning how to write from Kaitlyn was an incomparable experience. She made being a major reporter and editor look almost effortless. She taught me how to be a true reporting professional. I made plenty of mistakes, and she was always gracious when correcting me. Due to her teaching, I developed an understanding of the format of writing articles, the process of information gathering, and how to conduct an efficient interview. She also embraced my story pitches and my idea to edit and post videos of events from the House to social media. I now plan on making writing a big part of my life, and I’ll always be able to say I learned from one of the best in the business.

Scott Faughn is as good a boss as you could imagine. In my few months of experience there, he treated me well. He welcomed me into his company with open arms and has always been supportive of me. I’ll never forget when he got me breakfast and invited me to his interview with the governor on one of my first days there. He’s as genuine as the guy you see on television every Sunday. I’m forever grateful I got to work for two wonderful people who allowed me to grow as a reporter and as a person.

In March, I got an offer to be a legislative assistant in the House. In that experience, I got to see the legislature from a completely different side. I saw firsthand how hard the legislative assistants and staff from both sides of the aisle work; the House Communications team, the clerks, and other non-partisan staff are true examples of what helps our democracy function. They don’t make the headlines or receive the notoriety, but they are just as dedicated as the elected officials.

In both my time as a reporter and a legislative assistant, many representatives took the time to make me feel welcome. I learned so much from them about life and the different approaches to making an impact on your community. It’s easy to become cynical about our politics, but I can attest that there are people in our Capitol who truly value their roles as public servants. As a college kid, it meant the world when they would take time out of their busy schedules to help me professionally and personally.

I want to thank some of the representatives who helped me and made this session memorable: Rasheen Aldridge, David Tyson Smith, Maggie Nurrenbern, Marlene Terry,  Wiley Price IV, Michael Johnson, Adam Schwadron, Mark Sharp, Sara Walsh, Trish Gunby, Bruce Degroot, and Marlon Anderson.

Most importantly, I’m thankful to the citizens who follow The Missouri Times and other outlets. Staying informed and active is essential no matter what your politics are.

When asked what kind of government he and the other founder fathers were creating, Ben Franklin is quoted as saying, “A republic if you can keep it.” From the elected officials to the journalists, the staff, and everyday citizens, we all have our role in preserving our country’s freedoms and making a more perfect union. Every day you remain involved in following our government, you make our state and our nation a better place.

As I prepare to graduate from college and enter the next stage of my life, I’m forever grateful to have participated in this legislative session, and I’m excited for my next opportunity to work with Rep. Aldridge back in St. Louis. This semester, I gained more than college credits; I have grown as a person and a professional in ways you simply can’t in a classroom and got the privilege of informing the public and working for them in the People’s House.