Graves spent her time at the Legislature researching health and senior citizen issues and completing minutes and memorandums for committees. She worked closely with Delegate Don Perdue (D-Wayne), chair of House of Delegates Health and Human Resources Committee. “He showed me the ropes of the Legislature. There wasn’t a day when I didn’t want to be there,” Graves said.
She presented legislation to the committee, including one she drafted on drinking raw, unpasteurized milk. “I wrote a paper about how harmful raw milk is to consume, and I had to deal with constituent views that were opposed. No matter how bad I wanted to scream, ‘Don’t drink raw milk,’ I had to remain calm and professional,” Graves said.
Things move fast in the Legislature, and meeting agendas were subject to change at the will of the chair. Graves said her decision-making and problem-solving skills were put to the test. “One meeting, the entire staff had to rush new bills to the committee. To aid the situation, I organized all of the interns to help provide the needs of the committee quickly. From this situation, I learned how to effectively manage others and myself under pressure,” she said.
At the end of her internship in April, Graves had the opportunity to address the House of Delegates about her time spent at the Legislature. She said, “It was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my whole time there. I had no clue until then that I enjoyed speaking in front of that many people.”
Her four-month stint at the Legislature proved to be a life-changing and motivating experience. Since she graduated this May with a Master of Public Health degree in health policy, management, and leadership, job offers have been coming in steadily. “Public health students go into these internships, and we’re in the real world. These opportunities give us a chance to experience the workforce, and it gives us an edge in the job market,” Graves said.
She hopes to remain in West Virginia and to work to form strong ties between government and public health officials.
“My aspirations are to one day run for some type of office and not only advocate for health, but for quality of life for the community,” Graves said. “This internship opportunity has prepared me for and accelerated my career aspirations. It has been a dream.”
Photo identifications (Photo by Martin Valent, West Virginia Legislative photography):
(From left to right) Delegate Don Perdue of (D-Wayne), WVU School of Public Health intern Janelle Graves, associate counsel Brandon Hatfield, and legislative analyst Steve Thompson
For more information: Amy Johns, Director of Public Affairs, 304-293-7087