Time management is one of the biggest challenges for college students, especially for student-athletes who must balance their academics, team practices, and travel for games. The opportunity for some down time is cherished.
It would be understandable if Huskies cornerback Byron Jones ’15 (CLAS) decided to relax last March, during the annual week of recess in the football team’s spring practice session. Jones, a double major in economics and political science, instead decided to spend his week off getting a first-hand look at politics in the office of his former youth basketball coach, House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz (D-30th District), during the 2013 legislative session in Hartford.
“I was there during the session, and it was crazy with people running around and calls coming in,” says Jones. “I was answering phone calls, tallying votes to make sure there were enough votes to pass a bill. They gave me the freedom to talk with a lot of legislators and lobbyists to see what it was like. It was a great learning experience. I made a lot of connections.”
Jones was invited to return to Aresimowicz’s office for what became the first of two internships he did this past summer. He earned a second internship to work in the Washington, D.C. office of U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-5th District), where he met with Connecticut residents visiting the office and led tours of the U.S. Capitol building.
While in Hartford, Jones sat in on various meetings to monitor legislation that would be brought to the floor of the General Assembly for a vote, meet with legislators and lobbyists, and watch voting. He says observing the pace of activity on the floor of the House was an eye-opening experience.
“It’s pretty rowdy in that room. People are having full-on conversations. It’s something I didn’t expect,” Jones says, noting that Aresimowicz invited him to sit in the House chamber during legislative votes. “It was really cool. He gave me the opportunity to sit in his seat when bills were being passed.”
Aresimowicz says Jones demonstrated unusual maturity, which allowed him to move quickly into taking on increasingly important assignments, including analyzing legislation, attending meetings, providing services to constituents, and following up on various legislative issues.
“He just carries himself differently. You see that with military veterans. It probably has something to do with his dad [Donald] being a state police officer,” Aresimowicz says. “He was sitting in a meeting the second day on the job, which is not the norm. The following week he sat in on a screening meeting about what bills would be taken to the floor for voting.”
In Washington, Jones would be among the first to greet visitors to Esty’s office and answer questions about their concerns. He was trained to lead tours around the U.S. Capitol building, and also worked on drafting letters to constituents in Esty’s congressional district, which includes Jones’s home town of New Britain.
“I was very impressed with Byron’s knowledge, work ethic, and great people skills.” Esty said in an email. “It can get pretty hectic on Capitol Hill, but Byron’s ability to focus and tackle multiple projects, while responding to the needs of constituents at the same time, is no doubt part of what has also made him a successful scholar and athlete. He’s an excellent role model as a talented, hard-working young person who excels not only on the field but in academics and community service as well.”
Jones says he enjoyed the opportunity to meet visitors from throughout the United States, and speak with legislative assistants from other parts of the nation.
“It’s nice to talk with different people from all over and see how passionate they are about some issues,” he says. “They’re very intelligent and know what they are doing.”
As a redshirt junior, Jones has another year of football to play as a Husky. He says he hopes to explore opportunities with his economics studies next summer, noting the variety of directions that area of study provides for internships.
Jones says his work on the frontline of politics last summer showed him there are also many options to pursue apart from seeking office.
“I don’t think I’d run for office, but there are a lot of positions in the political arena that most people don’t know about,” he says. “If that comes to light down the road, I’d be open to do it.”