My Invaluable NJLP Fellowship Experience

By Indhu Kanakaraj

As my time with Assemblywoman Angela McKnight’s office reaches its culmination, I begin to reflect upon this experience. It seems unfathomable that my routine no longer consists of boarding the bus at its scheduled time and arriving at the front door of the office within exactly twenty-four minutes. However, I absorb all the lessons I have learned and values I have gained within this short period of time in hopes that they will benefit me for years to come.

As a science major in my school, I applied to the New Jersey Leadership Program as an opportunity to gain insight into the field of politics. I had been curious about pursuing law for several years and I hoped that this internship would be beneficial in determining if this was an area in which my interests lie. The moment I stepped foot into Assemblywoman McKnight’s office, I was aware that this experience would affect me in various ways. I developed connections and unbreakable bonds with my fellow interns, supervisors, and the assemblywoman herself. I thoroughly executed tasks as instructed by my supervisor, and these not only strengthened my work ethic but gave me a sense of professionalism. The days seemed to fly by, and I was eager to make the most of my time there.

Having been exposed to family and friends with cancer throughout my life and also being Treasurer for the American Cancer Society club at my school, I began to wonder if there was any way in which I could further invest my time in this cause while making a difference within the community. After much pondering, I formed a clear plan and then approached the assemblywoman with my project. My idea was to collect donations such as toys, books, games, hats, and scarves and then give them to hospitalized children with cancer during the winter holidays. The assemblywoman was thrilled about this, and she allowed me to independently execute this through the office. I designed flyers and printed them out, made calls to businesses to request donations, and started to get the word out. Things ran smoothly, and I will return in November to help hang up flyers in Bayonne and Jersey City. I mainly look forward to December when I will join the assemblywoman in going around and brightening up the faces of kids during the holidays.

Another component of the NJLP, the Speakership Series, has also been beneficial to me personally, as hearing the experiences of the speakers pushed me to strive for greatness and find the power that exists within myself. The topic that resonated with me the most was “Non-profits and Activism.” It was touching to listen to the stories about the hardships and obstacles that the speakers had overcome throughout their lives, but also to know that those experiences shaped them into the people they are to this day. Ms. Kavita Mehra’s story of how she conquered adversity such as racial discrimination and physical abuse truly inspired me. To know that she overcame such obstacles and now assists children who may face similar issues provides me with hope that I can one day make a difference in the world as well. I am capable of beginning now on a smaller scale, and I hope to involve myself in a non-profit in the future. It is worthwhile for everyone to pursue an activity or a cause meaningful to them with the sole focus on helping to improve the lives and conditions of others.

Being a Fellow in the New Jersey Leadership Program has made me feel like I am a part of something special. I have gained confidence and the willingness to accomplish my goals thanks to my experiences at the office as well as the words of wisdom given to us by the speakers. I am sure that this journey will serve to have an everlasting impact on my mindset as I navigate my way throughout this world, and I am satisfied to have spent this summer in the most productive and best way possible.