As many news readers know, the 127th Maine Legislature was a historic one. The near-record number of vetoes and the legislation passed are what most people heard about, possibly symbolizing a sign of distress in our leadership.

Bad news travels fast.

What many may not have heard about, however, was all the impressive work the representatives, senators and staff in Augusta accomplished, as well as creating some of the first internships of their kind. This was my experience, and I can without a doubt confirm what everyone is thinking: It was incredible.

Many may see a high school internship as a pathway toward professional politician, which is understandable, but in no sense was it the rationale behind my decision to participate. This experience granted me the ability to see how our government works — the good, the bad and the ugly. No shortage of knowledge was thrown at me — be that caucusing with my representative’s political party, attending committee hearings, watching the budget be adjusted or meeting with lobbyists.

Was this a little like drinking water from a fire hose? Yes. Do I regret adding these responsibilities to my regular duties at my school? Not at all.

Rep. Gay Grant, D-Gardiner, met with me the first day I arrived. We talked about what I expected from the experience, when I could come to the State House, what I would do when I was there and what issues I was particularly interested in. It seemed a little overwhelming at first, but it was completely customizable so I could really learn what I wanted to learn.

I said, “Let’s cut out the busy work, and give me something to chew on,” and soon enough, I was able to be there and do meaningful work.

I was able to research past legislation, as well as contact lobbyists and organizations to see their perspective about some potential legislation we were working on. This was the crown jewel of my experience. The legislation focused on sexual assault, an issue that unfortunately many people have experience with, whether through a loved one, or themselves being victims. The issue does not nearly get the publicity or response it deserves, and I hope to help change that.

There’s a saying that most of what a person learns is on-the-job training, compared to what a person learns in a classroom. With my internship, I was able to gain this valuable experience before I had even graduated high school. To put it bluntly, I was pretty psyched.

I can thank my interest in politics to the American Legion Dirigo Boys State program I attended the summer before my senior year. The knowledgeable Boys State staff allow the young men to learn how our democracy works in an interactive and fully customizable setting. After that, I was one of two boys selected to represent Maine at Boys Nation, which is justly advertised as the “week to change a lifetime.”

Without that experience, I doubt my internship would have happened, and the plethora of opportunities presented to me would have slowed to trickle.

This internship not only taught me how our state actually works, but also taught me to be a better man. I was able to get a taste of real-world politics as it truly is, and because of this I have been fortunate enough to be granted scholarships, such as the George Mitchell scholarship, that I never could have dreamed of. The opportunities I have because of this experience are endless, and if I have any advice to offer other young people it is to become active in their community.

It does not matter if they get a state internship like I did, or if they just occasionally go to town meetings. What is important is that young people become active in things that directly affect them and their loved ones. They can help make their home a better place for all people, and that in itself is worth talking about.

Adam Fortier-Brown, of Randolph, is a freshman at the University of Maine, Orono, and will be studying economics and political science.

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