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Lessons learned from Capitol Hill: Dayton students get first-hand look

Published: Wednesday, June 07, 2017 @ 7:54 AM

Thanks to DP&L support, students from the Dayton area are able to experience first-hand the government at work and how it affects local communities.
Thanks to DP&L support, students from the Dayton area are able to experience first-hand the government at work and how it affects local communities.

Ian Dollenmayer began his first year at the University of Dayton (UD) in much the same way that many freshmen do: as an undecided major.  

After all, how can you be expected to know what you want to do with the rest of your life at 18 years of age? However, his undecided status didn’t last long. 

“I took an American Political Systems course my first semester at UD, and I never looked back. The only thing that changed was how I wanted to apply my political science degree,” explained Dollenmayer. “A genuine love for government work blossomed during my time at UD, due in large part to my coursework and experiences.”  

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Those experiences included internships with UD’s Office of Government and Regional Relations and with the federal government in Washington, D.C.  

But one internship, in particular, would help set the course for his professional life after college: the University of Dayton Statehouse Civic Scholars program

Ian Dollenmayer (center, blue shirt) with the 2015 UD Civic Scholars

“I’d gotten to know (former) Governor Taft and Eileen Austria, and they told me about UD’s Statehouse Civic Scholars program. Both encouraged me to apply,” said Dollenmayer. “I had experienced government at the federal level, and I saw this as a great opportunity to learn about government at the state level. So, I applied and was lucky enough to be one of 12 students chosen for an internship at the Statehouse in Columbus.” 

Locally funded programs introduce students to state and federal government

Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders -- especially students who have an interest in government and politics and who might someday influence legislation that affects the Dayton region.  

Dayton Power and Light (DP&L) understands that cultivating knowledge of government, the legislative process, and how it impacts the local community and the businesses that operate there can benefit the Miami Valley area in the future. That’s why, since 2011, the company has supported the UD Statehouse Civic Scholars program, arranged for networking opportunities, and sends two students from the Dayton Early College Academy (DECA) to the Dayton Region Community Fly-In. Both programs provide local students with the opportunity to interact and work side-by-side with state and federal government representatives.  

The 2017 University of Dayton Civic Scholars

University of Dayton Statehouse Civic Scholars program

Eileen Austria is the owner of EFA Solutions, a consulting firm of which the University of Dayton is a client. She manages the statehouse internships that are awarded through the University’s Civic Scholars program, now in its sixth year. 

Every year, Austria and Taft select 12 students for the eight-week internship in Columbus, beginning in May and wrapping up in July. To be considered, students must have at least at 3.0 GPA and be enrolled full-time at the University of Dayton.  

Statehouse scholars receive:

  • Three hours of internship credit
  • A fellowship stipend 
  • Housing at Capital University, which is in close proximity to the Statehouse
  • Opportunities to network with Ohio statewide officers, legislators, lobbyists and more, including a luncheon with elected officials hosted by DP&L 

Placement opportunities include highly desirable offices in state government, such as the Attorney General, Auditor of State, Secretary of State, and House Speaker Communications team, just to name a few. Dollenmayer’s placement was with the Office of Budget and Management.  

“The state passes a new budget every two years,” explained Dollenmayer. “I was lucky enough to be there at the end of the last budget cycle, so I had the chance to experience first-hand what it’s like to pass a new budget.”  

>>> RELATED GALLERY: Dayton students learn about community and government

DECA students attend Dayton Region Community Fly-In in Washington D.C.

Each year, in an effort to educate the community about the federal government and to promote the exchange of ideas between Washington officials and community leaders, the Dayton Development Coalition (DDC) hosts the Dayton Community Fly-In event in Washington, D.C. Dayton has one of the largest and oldest ongoing community-wide programs in the U.S. that takes civic leaders to the nation’s capital. 

“Every year, DP&L pays for two students and a chaperone from our school to be a part of the Dayton Region Community Fly-In,” said Dave Taylor, deputy superintendent for DECA.  

A committee is responsible for choosing which two DECA students will receive the opportunity. Their decision is based primarily on student performance (GPA), as well as recommendations from teachers and the administration. The students must be in their junior or senior year of high school. 

DECA students Jocelyn Martin (left) and Muhammed Ndao (right) with Ohio senator Rob Portman

“For us, this is a major, mind-expanding opportunity for our students, who return from D.C. with their view of the world completely reformed and reshaped in some way. We are eternally grateful for this opportunity, which would not be possible without the funding from DP&L,” said Taylor.  

This unique experience helps to develop a stronger tie to the community at-large for these high school students, encouraging them to pursue a higher education, be involved in their community, and gain an understanding of the many issues that can affect their job, their company and the field they choose. 

As for Ian Dollenmayer, after graduating from the University of Dayton in the spring of 2016, he returned to the Statehouse, where he currently works as a legislative aide to Senator Matt Huffman. And while he doesn’t see himself returning to the Miami Valley area, he says that he will always be a champion for and seek to make a difference in the place he once called home. 

“I will always have a connection and affinity for the Miami Valley area,” said Dollenmayer. “I’ll always consider it my home-away-from-home.”  

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