Alexis Shoats was just 12 years old when former President Barack Obama was elected. Like most people, she watched the day-long inauguration, inspired by the new leader.
“I enjoyed President Obama’s inauguration speech,” she remembers. “It was very moving and very empowering, not only to the black and minority community, but also to the nation overall.”
As she watched inauguration, Shoats knew that politics would be her life.
On Saturday, May 5, Shoats will embark on her journey in public service as she joins hundreds of other students graduating from Clayton State University.
Shoats quickly got involved in politics and public service at Clayton State, volunteering with voter registration, attending Clayton State Day at the Capitol, as well as being a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.
For her senior year, she got an opportunity to work at the Georgia Capitol with Sen. Valencia Seay D-34.
Working for Sen. Seay was eye-opening. Shoats shadowed the Clayton County representative her first day of the internship. Soon, she became immersed in the legislative process, researching and drafting bills, as well as responding to constituents and making sure their issues where being heard.
“Being around someone of her seniority was amazing,” Shoats says. “It was a good lesson to not forget why you’re there.”
Part of that lesson for Shoats was discovering history.
Shoats connected with the Georgia legislative black caucus to go on a special trip with other Capitol interns to Alabama for the Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee.
The historic event commemorates March 7, 1965, known as “Bloody Sunday,” when more than 500 African American demonstrators tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge to petition for the right to vote. Those gathered where met by state troopers who proceeded to attack the marchers. The event led the U.S. Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act.
When Shoats took her first steps toward the bridge in Selma, she felt a sense of history and purpose around her. She heard stories of that day from actual foot soldiers who were there in 1965 when march occurred. And she met political and civil rights leaders including U.S. Reps Maxine Waters and John Lewis, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, and activists Jesse Jackson and Angela Rye.
“Congressman John Lewis said he had an orange, an apple and a book because he said he thought he was going to jail that day; he was not expecting to be beaten,” Shoats says of hearing Lewis’s story of that day.
“It was just life-altering. I feel that it’s a trip everyone has to go.”
The internship experience working at the Georgia Capitol developed a greater passion for civic engagement and politics for Shoats. And she made a strong impression on Sen. Seay.
“I have always valued the opportunity to interact with students from my district,” Sen. Seay said. “Being a Senate Intern is a unique experience within itself and I watched Alexis, not only embrace the experience, but gain life lessons that will travel with her in her future endeavors.”
Post-graduation Shoats’s goal is to go to law school. As for how far she would like to go in politics, she puts no limits on herself.
“Ultimately, my goal is to uplift and make sure my community is thriving,” she says.