Centre College swimmer Race Pellant ’21 (Danville, Kentucky) had the opportunity to work as a summer intern in Houston, Texas, in a community where several are still recovering and rebuilding from Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
Pellant assisted with constituent work under the direction of District B Council Member Jerry Davis, who is also the vice mayor of Houston. He handled constituent calls from the district and assisted and problem-solved their issues.
The area of Houston where Pellant worked has a population of about 240,000, and, as a majority minority, offers the lowest income of the city.
“About 3,000 people are still displaced city-wide,” Pellant said. “There are probably more in their homes, but they don’t have the means to repair them and are just dealing with it. I did a lot of walking around the district, and there were people who didn’t have stoves and appliances and were using hotplates and mini fridges to get by.”
The other half of Pellant’s internship involved working on community projects.
“The chief of staff assigned me a community garden that he wanted to have done,” he said. “There was an abandoned lot that the city repossessed. We turned the 10,000-square-foot lot into a community garden for one of the elementary schools in the area. We paired up with the school and two non-profits.
“My role was designing the garden, budgeting, organizing volunteers and getting donations for supplies from big corporations, like Lowes and Home Depot, to get everything necessary and stage the area. We had about 50 volunteers come in one day, so my job was to basically be project manager. We built 12 raised garden beds, planted four vines and five different trees, built a chicken coop and put about 12 bee hives on the lot.”
Pellant said he spent about a week on the site, which was his favorite part of the internship, because he was working outside and making a difference.
As an international studies major, Pellant would like to have this kind of experience abroad, but because of this internship, he is also thinking about economics.
He explained that a majority of the work that takes place in the office where he interned is centered on economics. Pellant was able to receive advice from the council member with whom he worked, because he was also the chair of economic development partnership and was an economics major in college.
This summer, Pellant found that he accomplished much more than he thought he would.
“I was one of the few interns who was out in the community,” he said. “I got to meet people and build relationships in the community, which I found is really important. I learned the value of networking and building relationships not only professionally but personally, because you don’t know when those people will be able to help you with a project in the future.”
Pellant said this internship was a valuable opportunity, providing him his first experience working in the government sector. He said he always thought he wanted to work in government and public service, and this summer solidified that for him.
“While it is really tough at times, and you see a lot of hardships, it’s rewarding not only to myself but also rewarding to make a small difference that will hopefully make a larger difference later,” he concluded. “I know what I want to be doing, and it motivates me now.”
by Kerry Steinhofer
September 3, 2018