2019 Leonard D. Schaeffer Fellow Reflection: Sherese Bonner

My name is Sherese Bonner, a third year student in the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. I was fortunate enough to serve as a Leonard D. Schaeffer Fellow in the City of Richmond Mayor’s Office this summer. I was drawn toward applying for an internship in local government because I strongly believe it is where real change occurs. While serving in this role, I was responsible for a plethora of tasks, including drafting environmental policy memos as they relate to solar panels and carbon fees, conducting research on housing policy, reviewing and assessing resolutions, writing letters to constituents, and answering telephone calls. 

One thing that I certainly appreciated during this internship was the opportunity to witness the formation of different initiatives throughout Richmond, Virginia. These experiences showed me that Richmond is a growing, vibrant city, constantly working towards bettering the lives of their citizens. For example, throughout the course of my internship I was able to witness the formation of a task force whose purpose is to address and reduce the infant and maternal mortality rates. As research has shown, women, black women in particular, are being disproportionately mistreated within the healthcare system.  As a result, they are facing health crises that put their child and themselves at extreme risk. The task force’s work is extensive as they are partnering with a multitude of nonprofits, hospitals, and other organizations to ensure that this issue is being properly addressed. Witnessing the formation of this maternal and infant mortality task force was what I considered an invaluable part of my internship experience. 

For anyone who is selected to participate as a Leonard D. Schaeffer Fellow, I would encourage them to conduct informational interviews with the professionals in their office. I would especially encourage future fellows to conduct interviews with people both in and outside of their career interests. Over the past 10 weeks, I was able to speak with the City Treasurer, Chief Administration Officer, Chief of Staff to the Mayor, Deputy Chief Administration Officer of Human Services, etc. All these civic leaders experienced multiple challenges and career changes that encompassed risks, rewards, and reevaluation of purpose. Their answers to my questions were honest and insightful. Their words were encouraging and showed me that there is truly no “one single path” to public service. 

I am very thankful for the opportunity to have served in the Richmond Mayor’s Office this summer. This internship certainly solidified my decision to pursue a career in the public sector.