Posted: February 16, 2017
Mayor Benjamin welcomes new class of Mayor’s Fellows for spring semester
COLUMBIA, S.C. (February 16, 2017) – Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin welcomes 14 students for the spring semester of the Mayor’s Fellows program. The program provides both undergraduate and graduate-level students the opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge of how a high-energy local government operates. The fellowship caters to students seeking course credit or to those simply wishing to gain public service experience.
The Mayor’s Fellows will assist with research in various areas and provide aid to the Mayor’s staff. To date, the Mayor’s Fellows program has had more than 150 students participate.
This semester’s fellows are:
Jalesa Cooley (Summerville, South Carolina) is a junior at The University of South Carolina majoring in public relations. On campus, she is the assistant director of marketing for the CHICKS Conference and a staff writer for two special publications of The Daily Gamecock: Best of Carolina and The Carolina Insider. As a Fellow, she hopes to increase her professionalism, learn more about government and see how the communications department works on a day-to-day basis. Her career goal is to work with public relations or marketing for an international company so she can travel. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, studying Spanish and spending time with friends and family.
Meghan Durant (Sandwich, Massachusetts) is a junior at the University of South Carolina studying political science and public relations. Through the Mayor’s Fellows program, she hopes to engage the public in political participation and learn how to best communicate with constituents of elected officials. On campus, Durant serves as the executive director of USC’s voter registration and education initiative, Lead The Way. Following graduation, she hopes to either attend law school or work as a communications director for a political campaign.
Taylor Evans (North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina) is a junior at the University of South Carolina majoring in public relations and minoring in psychology. She hopes to gain experience in communications and build connections during her time at the Mayor’s Office. Evans’ hobbies include baking, watching movies and relaxing at the beach. She enjoys mentoring high school students through the Multicultural Outreach Student Team (MOST) and serving as the social media editor of The Daily Gamecock. After graduation, she plans to pursue a career in corporate communications or work for a public relations agency.
Daniel Glover (Cross, South Carolina) is a senior at the University of South Carolina majoring in public health with a minor in business administration. Following graduation in May, he plans to pursue a master’s degree in community development and action and eventually attend law school. He hopes to one day combine his various educational backgrounds to evoke positive change in communities all over the country and hopes the Mayor’s Fellows program will give him an idea of how to do so. In addition to being a fellow, Glover also serves as a student recruiter within the USC Office of Undergraduate Admissions and as a member of the Changing Carolina Peer Leaders.
Kevin Harper (Fort Mill, South Carolina) is a sophomore biology major at the University of South Carolina. His career goal is to work as an orthopedic surgeon. Harper’s hobbies and extracurricular activities include playing soccer, surf fishing, officiating soccer games and working on the staffs of his friends in Student Government at Carolina.
Nakia "Nick" Hooks (New Orleans, Louisiana) is a freshman political science major at the University of South Carolina. After graduating from USC, he plans to attend law school with hopes of eventually running for public office. Hooks wants to devote his life to helping low-income students get through school, get a great career and be successful in life. As a Mayor's Fellow, he hopes to begin that work in the City of Columbia.
Tianna Mills (Florence, SC) is a senior African-American Studies major at the University of South Carolina. Following graduation, she would like to spend a few months travelling internationally so that she can expand her world view and then serve in AmeriCorps’ City Year program. Passionate about local government and public service, as a Mayor’s Fellow, she would like to see how local government works to enact big changes. Mills has just been tasked with chartering the first Black Lives Matter chapter at USC, and she works closely with activist networks such as the SC Progressive Network and Simple Justice. Her overall career goal is to work as a civil rights attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union and, of course, continue to serve her state in public service.
Christopher Perez (San Antonio, Texas) is a junior sport and entertainment management major at the University of South Carolina. He would like to attend law school after graduation. He is interested in both sport and international law and hopes to pursue a career in one of these fields following graduation from law school. On campus, he serves as the Carolina Service Council’s vice president and plays on several intramural sports teams. He looks forward to the opportunity to work as hard as he can to give back to a city that has given him so much since he first got here three years ago.
Morgan Rising (Charlotte, North Carolina) is a freshman at the University of South Carolina majoring in public health and minoring in business administration. Through working at the Mayor’s Office, Rising hopes to gain knowledge on the processes of policy research and implementation. After graduation, she plans to pursue a career in healthcare policy or administration. In her free time, Rising enjoys hiking and spending time with friends.
Henry Rohrer (Ardmore, Pennsylvania) is a sophomore history major at the University of South Carolina. He has a passion for American history, foreign conflict in particular, and plans to change his major to international studies, as he would like to work in counter-terrorism. He is involved with Greek life and loves to watch and play both hockey and football.
Justin Smith (Summerville, South Carolina) is a freshman at the University of South Carolina in the Darla Moore School of Business. He is double majoring in international business and economics and double minoring in Chinese studies and political science. He is a member of the 8th International Business and Chinese Enterprise (IBCE) cohort in conjunction with the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Smith is interested in politics, government and international affairs. He aspires to serve as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer and eventually run for public office.
Samuel Smoot (Irmo, South Carolina) is a graduate of Francis Marion University located in Florence, South Carolina. While attending Francis Marion University, he earned his bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in history. His hobbies are photography, playing music, hosting artistic showcases, participating in community service, going to church and hanging out with family and friends. His goals include going to law school, opening his own jazz lounge and starting a mentoring group for young adults.
Jacob Thompson (Florence, South Carolina) is a freshman at the University of South Carolina majoring in political science. Since his move to Columbia, Jacob has enjoyed the beauty and diversity of the city of Columbia and looks to learn more about public administration and about how the city is run. Thompson hopes to serve the City of Columbia well and learn what it takes to work in a successful local government system. He enjoys taking advantage of the beautiful parks and natural lands Columbia has to offer, and in his free time you can find him playing golf, kayaking or enjoying Gamecock athletics.
Jordan Thompson (Spartanburg, South Carolina) is a senior at the University of South Carolina where he is majoring in social work with a minor in political science. His career goals are to become a lobbyist and eventually mayor of his hometown. He currently works as a page for Senator Shealy and Senator Reese at the State House. Thompson also has two non-profit mentoring programs where he interacts with young community members and takes the initiative to find resources and benefits available for the urban population.