What effect does working in Washington, D.C., for a summer have on an East Central University student from Jamaica?
"I realized how influential the United States is," said Jomain McKenzie, "not only to its citizens but to the entire international community -- this country makes things happen.
"Too many people don't realize how important the United States is, or they would seek to participate and have a greater voice in what happens in their country," he added.
Jomain McKenzie, a junior at East Central University, stands on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., this summer, as a participant in an eight-week Institute on Political Journalism sponsored by The Fund for American Studies. McKenzie, who is from Clarendon, Jamaica, completed a professional internship, took two classes at Georgetown University and attended guest lectures and briefings at Washington agencies.
McKenzie is back at the helm of the ECU Journal newspaper as editor-in-chief after participating in the eight-week Institute on Political Journalism, one of five institutes sponsored by The Fund for American Studies.
TFAS also places participants in professional internships. McKenzie was an intern for the Aerospace Industries Association of America, an organization that represents and shapes policy for the aerospace, defense and homeland security industry.
"I worked chiefly in public relations but I did do a lot of news writing," McKenzie said.
The experience has changed his focus from journalism to public relations, however.
"I'm still interested in journalism, but public relations is more of where my passion is directed," he said.
McKenzie, who is from Clarendon, Jamaica, is a junior at ECU majoring in mass communication/advertising-public relations with a minor in theatre.
The TFAS program includes credit courses at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. McKenzie took an economics class as well as a public policy and media ethics course.
"They were two of the most challenging courses I've ever taken," he said. "They were challenging because of the course work, but also because they took me out of my comfort zone. They introduced me to new ideas, which I appreciated."
He also attended guest lectures and briefings at Washington agencies.
The summer wasn't all work and study. Social events and activities were planned for the nearly 400 TFAS students, including community service.
McKenzie performed in a charity concert that raised almost $1,000 for a non-profit organization. He sang some of the songs he has performed in several ECU productions as well as some American Idol pieces. He also helped clean up the Marvin Gaye Park in Washington.
The participants went kayaking on the Potomac River and McKenzie visited Mount Vernon in Virginia to "learn more about who the great George Washington was, how he lived then and the role he played in making America what it is today."
Other international students participated in the TFAS program from China, Argentina, Japan and several European countries.
"I knew one student who worked on the 2008 Olympics in Beijing," he said. "Everyone was quite accomplished, not only politically but in other fields, and wanted to make an impact on the world. It was really good to be in an atmosphere like that."
McKenzie said being in Washington, D.C., was something of a culture shock.
"That may sound harsh," he said, "but it was refreshing to see a different aspect of the American culture than in Oklahoma."
At ECU McKenzie also is president of ROTARACT and a member of the ECU Human Diversity Committee. He was named a Top Ten Freshman for the 2007-08 academic year. He is a member of ECU's Honors Program and Alpha Chi national honor society.
He has won first place twice in Oklahoma Collegiate Press Association competitions, in editorial writing in 2009 and investigative reporting in 2008.
McKenzie was a nominee for the American College Theatre Festival's Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Award last February. He also was a nominee for the Jamaican Prime Minister's Awards for Excellence in 2007 for Contribution to Culture & Performing Arts.
The TFAS program came at a cost, more than $6,000. Several local financial institutions, civic clubs, ECU groups and individuals contributed to fund his participation.
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