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Shay’na Fields’ move from SGA to Capitol Hill

Shay’na Fields, pictured above, sits at her desk in the office of Congressman Henry C. Johnson. Photo submitted by Shay’na Fields

In April 2019, Shay’na Fields ran for president of the Student Government Association because she said she wanted to bring unity to all six campuses and defend the student body to the administration.

“I still have ideas that are on the table that I would like to bring up,” Fields said in an interview with The Signal last March. “I’m here to be a servant leader and to bring the best out of them academically.” 

She lost the election. Three months later, Fields landed an internship in Washington, D.C. with the Congressional Black Caucus.

“I feel like when one door closes, God will always open up another one,” she said. 

Immediately after the failed run for president, Fields jumped right back into her career, connecting with local political leaders and working on her own non-profit organization, Operation 50 Speaks Inc. 

“I believe that running for SGA was an experience to battle my fear of running for an office,” she said.

During this time, Fields attended the Global Leadership Summit for the United Nations, a three-day conference in Washington D.C. where she was lobbying on Capitol Hill with her non-profit. 

State Farm’s corporate office invited her to do a non-profit show at their office, where she said she was the only black woman as well as the youngest African-American person. Fields was able to sign up over 50 State Farm employees to volunteer for her non-profit. Currently, Operation 50 Speaks is on a break while she is preparing to enter her last semester of her senior year.

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“My non-profit will outlast me,” Fields said. “It’ll outlast me, it’ll outlast college, so it’s always going to be there.”

She has also participated in college ministry endeavors at the University of West Georgia before leaving for her internship.

“That also set me in [the true] perspective [of] where I was going, so I was pretty much being built up all around for this big move to D.C.,” Fields said. 

While she was out on Capitol Hill, Fields observed the issues in the black communities and talking to the legislative team in efforts to bring awareness to constituents of Georgia’s fourth congressional district.

This fall, she began an internship for the Congressional Black Caucus, one of two Georgia State students to partake in this opportunity.

According to Fields, the mission of the Congressional Black Caucus is to advance the global black community by developing leaders, forming policy and educating the public.

According to their website, the caucus envisions a world where all communities have equal voice in public policy through leadership cultivation, economic empowerment and civic engagement. It works to diversify the amount of employment and leadership that is on Capitol Hill and expose the black community to public service.

McKenzie Tooke is another Georgia State student who interned with Fields.

“After reading so many positive testimonials about the internship and how the experience has molded so many successful black leaders, I was very excited to get involved,” Tooke said.

After writing the necessary essays, acquiring recommendations and presenting transcripts, Fields was interviewed by her congressman and successfully passed through the review board. The caucus grants interns a stipend, housing and the opportunity to work in their congressman’s office. 

According to Tooke, while interning at the Capitol, she has done a variety of correspondence work, ranging from responding to letters containing concerns about government issues to answering phone calls regarding upcoming legislation to interacting with constituents who visit the congressional office.

Tooke has attended briefings where she is responsible for reporting the information back to congressional staff. She was also responsible for researching legislation and relaying information back to staff.

“Outside of the office, I attend weekly professional development sessions that prepare me to effectively navigate the nation’s capital as a young professional,” Tooke said.

In early June, after attending a conference for the United Nations, Fields was able to lead the lobbying efforts of her team from Atlanta. These efforts included meeting with senators and legislators to advocate for full funding for the United Nations programs, which she said that President Trump was going to cut funding for.

“When I met Congressman Johnson, who is actually my district representative, I shook his hand, and I looked him in his eyes and said, ‘I’m going to solve problems here,’” Fields said.

In addition to networking, Fields’ own personal work also led her to the work she is currently doing on Capitol Hill. Operation 50 Speaks educates young adults on the importance of their voice and presence in local government affairs, through events like voter registration drives. 

Fields believes there needs to be greater youth participation and is working toward bridging the gap between the community and the local government.

“My goal [is] to make sure that young people understand the power of their voice and the resources that are available to them on the local level [because] we don’t talk about that,” Fields said.

Fields has some advice for any upcoming leaders at Georgia State.

“Whatever you’re doing, don’t freak out about what’s happening five years from now … don’t freak out about what did happen; do what you can to end your current chapter well,” Fields said. “End it with joy and dignity, and enjoy the fruit of your labor.”