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Finding the Right Avenue for Change

News Type Public Address

Mycheala Holley and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, visit the Stanley Black & Decker plant in Akron after she organized a tour and a meeting with plant leadership and workers to discuss the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill. 

By Joan Slattery Wall 

When Mycheala Holley started her studies at The Ohio State University, she planned an ambitious path: obtain a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in criminology and criminal justice studies and go directly to law school.  

Then, her participation in the John Glenn College of Public Affairs Washington Academic Internship program (WAIP) led her to take a detour. 

“My WAIP experience showed me to keep an open mind. I was always only focused on law school, but WAIP showed me the world of politics and nonprofits and other ways to make an impact as well,” said Holley.  

WAIP selects outstanding Ohio State undergraduates from any major to spend a semester in Washington, D.C., as John Glenn Fellows. Students work in internships that reflect their career goals and academic interest. 

Holley landed a WAIP internship at the Federal Judicial Center with the U.S. Courts and later spent another summer as an intern in the Ohio Senate. She also worked full time as a legislative aide in the Ohio House of Representatives while taking a full load of courses her final semester at Ohio State. She now works in U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office, where she’s an Ohio regional representative. 

Another fulfilling Glenn College experience for Holley: participating in NEW Leadership Ohio, a nonpartisan program devoted to increasing the representation of women in American politics. The intensive, five-day summer institute educates college students on the important role politics plays in their lives and prepares them to run for public office. 

“Being able to participate in that program, I met so many driven and ambitious and kind women leaders from across the state, which was something I never had the opportunity to do before,” she said. 

 

We had a lot of great conversations with different points of view.

Mycheala Holley
Washington Academic Internship Program Graduate

Holley still stays in contact with fellow WAIP and NEW Leadership participants and mentors, including Judge Laurel Beatty Blunt of Ohio’s 10th District Court of Appeals, who invited her and other WAIP participants to shadow her in her chambers. 

Holley graduated in 2019 and by August that year started her current position with Brown’s office. She serves nine counties in north and northeast Ohio as the senator’s eyes and ears in cities like Akron and rural areas like Hardin and Wyandot Counties.  

Her favorite part of the job is connecting with communities and helping them find solutions. 

“If I go to a community and meet with people and they tell me about an issue they’re having, I take that issue to the senator and the legislative team in D.C.,” she said. “I can provide recommendations on how that issue can move forward, and I can see those actions through to the end to where we can make a change in the community and see the impact that has.” 

 

Mycheala Holley (center, wearing black) poses with students in Mansfield, Ohio, after she participated in the community’s annual “Being a Reader Makes You A Leader” reading program in 2021.

Recently Holley became a founding partner in creating the Blue Action Group, which works with community partners in her hometown of Akron, Ohio, to reach out to youth and young adults to inspire and encourage civic engagement through creative and community-focused education.  

While exploring various paths to uplift her community, Holley remains focused on going to law school to find ways to address systemic inequality. In fact, her WAIP mentor, former Sen. John Glenn staffer Eileen Bradner, senior director and counsel for federal government affairs at Nucor Public Affairs Inc. in Washington, D.C., helped her examine ways she could work full time while attending law school. Currently enrolled in law school part time, Holley will complete her degree at the University of Akron in May 2025. 

“The criminal justice system has been used to hurt people who look like me in variety of different ways, and not just the criminal system but personal injury, family matters and so forth,” said Holley, who is Black, adding that she’s considering future career options in public policy or social justice law. “That was the main goal in going into the legal field. I’ve always had a passion to help people and to try to make the system equitable.” 

She lists open-mindedness and keeping track of the connections she’s made among the most important lessons she learned from WAIP. Another: Never give up, and believe in yourself. 

“No matter what you do, there might be roadblocks or things may not go as planned the first time, and we can be redirected or have new opportunities we didn’t quite see at first,” Holley said. “When one door closes, five other ones open up. You’ve just got to keep going.”