Mary Light, 22, calls her time at the University of Montevallo “transformative.” Mary is a graduating senior studying political science and communication studies. During her freshman year, she joined a sorority, got involved in student government, and was recommended to the Honors Program. She’s now serving as the student representative on the Board of Trustees and works part-time in the office of University Advancement.

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When did you first get interested in politics?

I grew up in Enterprise, Alabama, because my dad was stationed at Fort Rucker. Growing up, there was always a lot to do. I had violin, piano, golf, swim and dance lessons throughout the years. I also enjoyed cheering on my younger brother and sister in the activities they were involved in. My mom was very involved in the Republican Women of Coffee County, and she brought me along with her to the meetings. At a very early age I was exposed to canvasing, voter registration drives, and the election process. As a 12-year-old, I paged for State Senator Jimmy Holley. I developed a love for civic engagement early on, and I really owe that passion to my parents. They always impressed upon me the importance of being an active and engaged citizen.

What did you learn from your internship with U.S. Rep Martha Roby in Washington, D.C.?

My sophomore year of college, I wanted to be at the center of the democratic process. I applied for an internship in Washington, D.C., working for my U.S. Representative, Martha Roby (AL02). To my surprise, I was accepted, and I spent the summer of 2017 working in the Capitol Building. As an intern, I helped write press releases, articles and speeches. I saw House and Senate hearings first-hand and wrote memos about them for the legislative staff. I also had the opportunity to write a policy proposal about human trafficking and present it to Representative Roby. After returning to Montevallo for my junior year, I knew I wanted to return to D.C. the next summer. I looked into several potential internships and set my sights on an internship in the White House. After months of waiting, I received word that I had been accepted. I was assigned to the Office of Presidential Correspondence and worked in the Gift and Protocol office. It was the most tremendous privilege to walk in every morning and see the house of some of the world’s greatest leaders. While there, I analyzed and logged constituents’ policy concerns for weekly reports distributed to senior administration officials. I also co-developed digitization procedures to improve the efficiency of inventory management. Both of these internships engrained in me a deeper understanding of the political process. I got to work first-hand with people from different backgrounds and different states who come to work each day trying to make the country better in some way. What I appreciate most from these opportunities is learning to respect how different we as Americans really are.

How would you describe D.C. to a newcomer?

What many people expect to see in D.C. (or at least what I expected to see) is a sea of black suits and serious faces. I could not have been more surprised to find that D.C. is actually a place of vibrant color. From the thousands of tourists that come to see the monuments each day, to the fashion forward work outfits, to the fourth of July fireworks I saw from the south lawn of the White House, D.C. is the epitome of the American melting pot. 

What are your plans after you graduate from UM?

The Monday after I graduate, I begin an internship in Washington, D.C., working in Senator Shelby’s office. I’m so excited for the opportunity to learn from his staff and to be on the Hill again. While I’m there, I will be applying for positions on the Hill and pursuing some private sector opportunities as well.

What’s something interesting people might not know about you?

My family lived in Ansbach, Germany, while my dad was stationed there from 2000-2003. While there, my mom enrolled me and my brother in German Kindergarten, and we learned to speak fluent German. When we returned to the states, I lost much of the language. In my freshman year of college, I signed up for German 101 and it all came back to me. I believe that learning a different language can be so valuable. Paired with traveling, it helps you see the world in a different way.

When you think of world changers, who comes to mind, and why?

I have had the privilege of meeting some of the country’s biggest decision makers, but when I think of world changers, I think of parents and teachers. I have the utmost respect for the parents who make sacrifices each day to give their children better lives. I know I would not be who I am today without my mom and dad. I’m also a strong believer that education is the most valuable thing a person can have. Teachers and professors dedicate their lives to helping students reach their highest potential and become the doctors, politicians, teachers and parents of tomorrow.

Why do you love Montevallo and Shelby County?

I love Montevallo and Shelby County because it’s here that I’ve gained the confidence and support that has allowed me to pursue my dreams. My professors at Montevallo truly invested in me and have helped me reach my fullest potential. Through them, I have become connected to community events and recreational activities. Over the last four years, Shelby County is a place where I have felt welcomed and supported. I’ve made friends here that I know I will have throughout my life.