HSPA’s legislative interns for this session of the Indiana General Assembly bring a range of experiences to the work of lobbying for state newspapers.
Alfred Degrafinreid II, Chelsea Israel and Javaneh Nekoomaram share a 40-hour work week to maintain HSPA’s bill database and do other tasks to keep tabs on legislation that could affect public access to information and the Indiana newspaper industry.
The law school students help HSPA executive director and general counsel Steve Key sort, prioritize and track hundreds of bills.
“They serve as extra eyes and ears so that HSPA can cover multiple legislative committee meetings or action on the House and Senate floor,” Key said.
Meet the 2012 legislative interns
Alfred Degrafinreid II
Favorite book right now: “Root and Branch: Charles Hamilton Houston, Thurgood Marshall, and the Struggle to End Segregation”
Most recent movie he saw: “The Witness”
Favorite TV show: “24.” “I didn’t watch it when it was still on TV. Now I love it.”
Favorite food: Thai
Favorite dessert: Brownies or cookies
Favorite book right now: “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint Exupéry. “It’s a French translation that’s meant for children, but it’s a full length book. I’ve always had a soft spot for it.”
Most recent movie she saw: “Due date”
Favorite TV show: “Modern Family”
Favorite food: Pasta
Favorite dessert: Creme brulee
Favorite book right now: “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy
Most recent movie she saw: “Mission Impossible 4”
Favorite TV show: “Parks and Recreation.” “I keep up with too many to mention, but that’s one of my favorites.”
Favorite food: Mexican
Favorite dessert: Cookies
All three students attend the Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis.
Degrafinreid, 27, is back as an intern after a stint with HSPA during the 2011 General Assembly.
“I’m building upon the experience from last year,” he said. “Each session is different. You have to work equally hard to make sure you’re serving the member papers.”
During the summer of 2011 he worked in Nashville, Tenn., as the director of outreach and of the “Get out the vote” effort for Mayor Karl Dean’s successful re-election campaign.
Before law school Degrafinreid worked as a fundraiser for the vice mayor of Nashville, Tenn., and then worked for the speaker pro tem of the Tennessee House of Representatives.
Prior to that he earned a bachelor’s degree in speech pathology from Tennessee State University in 2006.
He worked for a year before returning to Tennessee State and earning a master of public administration degree in 2008.
Now in his final year of law school, the Memphis, Tenn., native wants a career in lobbying but is considering getting some litigation experience first.
“There’s always a negative connotation associated with lobbyists,” Degrafinreid said. “But it’s protecting the people and representing the people if you’re doing it in a good way.”
Israel, 24, has several pet interests in the legal sphere: real estate, domestic violence and the First Amendment.
The latter brought her to HSPA.
“Most of my undergrad experience was in media,” she said. “I just think it’s a neglected area of law so it’s of interest to me.”
The Richwood, Ky., native earned an undergraduate degree from DePauw University in 2009 with an English writing major and political science minor.
She also completed a media fellowship.
After a semester of studying and working in Washington, D.C., Israel decided she wanted to work for justice through legal representation.
“I wanted to do something about some of the inequities I witnessed,” Israel said. “I know a lot of people go into law school saying that, but I’m sticking with it.”
Israel, a third-year law student, does pro bono work at the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic in Indianapolis.
She worked there during the summer of 2010 and has volunteered her time since then.
“I couldn’t stay away once I was there,” she said.
She helps the clinic’s low-income clients with housing, immigration and other legal issues.
Her work with HSPA is providing her with a new perspective on law, she said.
“It’s interesting to see those who are pushing things through,” she said. “It’s a new vantage for me.”
Nekoomaram, 25, also graduated from DePauw in 2009, with an English major.
She is a third-year law student from Westfield.
Her first experience at the Statehouse was during the 2011 session, when she interned with another lobbying operation.
“It’s made me prepared for this session,” she said.
Summer jobs at law firms in Indianapolis and Washington, D.C., as an undergraduate got her interested in law.
Government affairs is her chief area of interest, and working with HSPA is providing lobbying experiences she hasn’t had with previous internships.
“I’m actually meeting with legislators to talk about legislation that we support or bills that were amended,” she said. “I’m helping draft amendments. We do some legal research.
“Those are things a lot of lobbying internships don’t let you do,” Nekoomaram said. “Here we have more responsibilities. That’s something you get working with a smaller group – you get to do more.”