Delegate Mark Keam - Virginia's 35th House District

College Student Shadows Delegate Keam

During General Assembly session, I meet with numerous constituents, individuals and organizations to discuss a wide range of issues that we consider in Richmond. This visit was particularly memorable as it reminded me of why I entered public service and why I want more young people to consider serving in government. Matt Ellis is an impressive young man who has a bright future in whatever he chooses to do.


Photo by Veronica Garabelli/ Capital News Service
Oakton High School 2009 graduate Matt Ellis, right,
meets Del. Mark Keam (D-35) at Richmond.

Shadowing a Delegate

University of Virginia freshman shadows freshman delegate.

By Veronica Garabelli, Capital News Service

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

When Matt Ellis, a freshman at the University of Virginia, was applying for a congressional internship with U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11), he didn't think to ask for a letter of recommendation from state legislators until a teacher from his high school suggested it. Even then, Ellis said, he didn't know what to expect.

"It seemed like a long shot from the beginning, considering I didn't have contacts in the government to turn to," Ellis said of his decision to apply for the internship and seek help from legislators. "I figured it was worth a try to reach out."

Ellis, who graduated from Oakton High School in 2009, said he received a reply from half of the 26 state lawmakers he contacted, but most of them couldn't help him because he wasn't in their district. By the time Ellis received a reply from freshman Del. Mark Keam (D-35), he had already gotten the internship with Connolly, but still took Keam's offer to shadow him for a day.

"Keam seemed very supportive," Ellis said. "I thought it was a good opportunity and one I should take advantage of."

Keam said he wanted to give Ellis the opportunity to see the state government in action.

"When I was about his age in college, I never had these opportunities," said Keam, a Verizon Communications vice president who was elected to an open House seat last fall. "I want to do everything I can to expose other people to this great career path."

ELLIS' PARENTS said their son decided entirely on his own to apply for the internship and meet with Keam. They didn't know he had applied until after he was accepted.

"He has a lot of different interests, and he seemed fairly focused from an earlier age with what it is he wanted to do," said his father Sonny Ellis. "Although I wouldn't be surprised if somewhere down the road he changed his mind."

Matt Ellis said he was interested in politics because it's an area in which a small group of people hold a lot of power.

"While there are a lot of flaws in the political system, I think our government does a very good job representing the interest of the people," he said. "They are getting done what needs to be done most of the time."

During his visit to the Virginia Capitol, Matt Ellis watched the House Chamber session, met with Del. James LeMunyon (R-67) and talked to Keam about politics and life in general.

When Keam learned that Matt Ellis had an interest in not only politics but finance, he told him the two areas aren't mutually exclusive.

"I told him just because you‘re interested in this doesn't mean you couldn't do that," Keam said. "At some point, he may be able to contribute to local community: the town council, an advisory board or commission."

Matt Ellis isn't ready to be pigeonholed into one field either. Even though he hasn't picked a major at the University of Virginia, he is in training to be on the University Judiciary Committee, which argues cases for students and on behalf of the school.

Matt Ellis developed an interest in finance when he took a personal finance class his freshman year at Oakton High School. Chad Rummell, who teaches journalism at Oakton High School, taught the personal finance class and witnessed Matt Ellis' work as the yearbook's manager.

"Here is a kid who managed $150,000 that he knew he had to be held accountable for," Rummell said. "I think he is one of those kids that understand that good enough isn't good enough. He always wants to push himself a little bit farther."

HIS FRIEND Matt Johnson, who also graduated from Oakton High School in 2009 and is a freshman at Wake Forest University, said that whatever Matt Ellis chooses to do, he'll be successful.

"I see Matt in some sort of leadership position," Johnson said. "Watching him over the years, he is never satisfied with sitting in the back of a group or letting things play out. He likes to have his hand involved whether it is in finance, politics, even in history. Whatever he pursues I know he'll stand out in it."

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