By Bharati Ganesh
After a relaxing long weekend, I was prepared to start my fellowship at Assemblywoman Elizabeth Muoio’s office (D-15). I set my alarm earlier than usual, packed my lunch, and laid out my clothes. I was excited to have a new experience this summer—something different than studying for SATs or binge watching a show on Netflix—which I hoped would fuel my interest in politics and provide me with an invaluable skillset. That morning, I was nervous with anticipation. What would they have me do? When would I meet the Assemblywoman?
When I first walked into the office, I was welcomed by Assemblywoman Muoio’s staffers. Her Chief of Staff was kind and helpful when showing me how to use the Office of Legislative Services (OLS)’s various features, check press clippings, answer phones, and reply to constituent emails. In addition, she had a caseworker show me how track constituents. But what I appreciated most about the Chief of Staff was that she listened to me closely and valued my opinions, which not something many adults can do when interacting with teenagers.
I established a routine at the office for the rest of the week and relished in my surroundings. What I loved about being in Assemblywoman Muoio’s office was that we were located right across from the State House- the seat of government in New Jersey. With its imposing columns and golden dome, the State House served as an inspiration for me, as did my cohort. Meeting them at our orientation was enlightening, and I felt that we were beginning to connect once we all became comfortable with each other.
During our orientation, we discussed important people in our lives and took a Hermann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) quiz on thinking styles in order to discover ourselves. Comparing our quiz results and examining each thinking style was stimulating and helped me understand group dynamics. In addition, we were taught how to leverage diversity in order to improve our effectiveness and communication when working with others. I never knew that there were elements of diversity such as tenure and union affiliation.
We ate lunch as a group, and then we reconvened to talk about generations- how events that define each generation shape its expectations. This means that it is essential to enhance generational awareness in the workplace to promote communication and teamwork across the age gap. To conclude our day, we practiced thirty second elevator pitches, which are brief introductions used when meeting people at networking events. We all received helpful pointers to improve our pitches after speaking.
I could not be more grateful to be in such a unique program that offers South Asian youth the ability to engage in and learn about local government. I can already sense that the leadership training I am obtaining is useful and will benefit me in the long run. Even though this is only my first week, I cannot wait to see what the next five weeks have in store.