Western's proximity to Manhattan leads to dream internship opportunity
for student with political aspirations
Corey Paris has a goal. He wants one day to become president. Not president of the Western Connecticut State University Student Government Association — that’s something he’s already accomplished — but president of the United States of America.
Paris is the kind of individual who seems destined for leadership. He was active in student government and Air Force ROTC in his Nevada high school; he became involved in the student senate at Johnson County Community College (JCCC) in Overland Park, Kan., where he was elected SGA president. Paris also became the state’s youngest elected official at 19, when he was voted in as a Precinct Committee member, which is equivalent to a New England city councilman.
After two years of study at JCCC, Paris naturally headed to Washington, D.C., for an internship at People for the American Way, a liberal progressive advocacy group that focuses on “making the promise of America real for every American: Equality. Freedom of speech. Freedom of religion. The right to seek justice in a court of law. The right to cast a vote that counts.”
While taking a break to visit friends in Stamford, Paris stopped by the WCSU campus to take a look.
“People were friendly and smiling,” he says. “They stopped to chat. I could feel the close-knit atmosphere. I looked at Western’s programs and how close it was to a major city, and yet it was much cheaper than the University of Kansas, where I had been considering finishing my degree.”
That proximity to a major city worked to Paris’ advantage last semester, when he was able to secure an internship at the Clinton Global Initiative. Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton as an off-shoot of the Clinton Foundation, the CGI serves to “convene global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.”
As an intern at CGI, Paris worked with Clinton’s Office of Partnerships to identify key organizations to fund projects aimed at addressing issues like women’s rights, access to education and health care, and the elimination of poverty. He interacted directly with the former president, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, first daughter Chelsea Clinton Mezvinsky, world leaders, corporate executives and more than a few celebrities at CGI’s Manhattan offices.
Paris was able to take advantage of the internship through Western’s co-op program. The university’s proximity to New York City enabled the political science major to drive from his Brookfield home to the Brewster, N.Y., train station to take the commuter rail into New York. It was the opportunity of a lifetime for the student who graduated from high school in Las Vegas, attended community college in Kansas and “took a risk” by coming to Connecticut to complete his bachelor’s degree.
The value of taking risks is something Paris learned to appreciate during his time working alongside the former president, who told Paris, “I’ve learned that in any major decision regarding your life, you should always take a risk. If you take a risk, it will lead you somewhere you would not have thought possible to have gone before.”
Paris says that deciding to study at Western was a risk that is paying off.
“Like former President Clinton, I had a hard life growing up,” Paris says. “My parents were divorced and the relationships are difficult. I became very close to my grandmothers, who instilled in me a faith in people, a faith in God and the understanding that there are other people who are worse off than me and I can be their voice. Bill Clinton defied the odds in every situation, just as I have by putting myself through college as a financially independent student. Western has been a cradle of opportunity for me and it proves that anything is possible when you take a risk with your life.”
Turning adversity into an opportunity seems to come naturally for the 22-year-old Paris, who has much in common with the 42nd president. Paris was born in Little Rock, Ark., during Clinton’s term as governor. While at Georgetown University, Clinton was a student leader; his future wife, Hillary Rodham, was an SGA president at Wellesley. Paris says his desire to work with nonprofit organizations and charities and his aspiration to public service are also common themes he shares with the president.
“After I’m a former president someday, I’ll want a foundation, too,” Paris says confidently. “Politics, people and policy — the things I love in life — they were all there in Bill Clinton’s office. I aspire to that wonderful example of helping others.”