Gov JBE intern speeches 080519

Yancy LeGrande, a rising junior at LSU, was one of 13 college students who served as interns this summer in the Edwards administration. The students on Monday, Aug. 5, 2019, described their experiences in various state agencies to Edwards and others.

Thirteen college students who spent the summer as interns in the administration of Gov. John Bel Edwards described their experiences Monday to the governor and others, including how to improve state operations.

Grace Bordelon, an LSU student who worked in the governor's office of communications, spelled out how social media allowed officials to get information to residents during Hurricane Barry, and around the news media that she said sometimes "sensationalizes" the issue.

Elise LaFleur, an Abbeville resident who attends Catholic University in Washington, D.C., suggested trimming the number of hours required to become hair braiders from 500 to 250 as a way to boost the number of women in the workforce.

Yancy LeGrande, an LSU student from Coushatta, proposed ways to address a looming deficit in the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and generate another $12 million per year.

All the students are Louisiana residents and all but three attend state schools.

Lamar Advertising has agreed to sponsor the non-partisan program for five years.

No state tax dollars are used.

The students were called fellows in keeping with the official name: The Lamar Governor's Fellowship Programs in Louisiana Government.

Mark Cooper, the governor's chief of staff, said the program began last year as a way for students to see state government up close, and to learn about Louisiana's rich history.

Each student was assigned to a cabinet-level agency, including the state Department of Health, Department of Revenue and Office of Juvenile Justice.

Cooper said Edwards made clear to his cabinet that he wanted the students to be involved.

"This was not going to be an internship where you put an intern behind a phone," Cooper said.

The governor on Monday spent about two hours hearing students discuss their experiences, then fielding questions from him and others in the audience.

Edwards asked Bordelon whether state officials responded when national news reports during Hurricane Barry said the state was experiencing levee failures – without making clear the levees were second tier structures to combat rising swamp water.

Bordelon, who lives in Baton Rouge, said New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell rebutted the reports using social media.

Bordelon said social media is especially effective knowing that 68 percent of adults use it, and 88 percent of those ages 18-29.

Robert Kyte, a Ruston resident who attends Georgetown University, worked in the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

Kyte described how climate change can affect Louisiana, and pointedly urged Edwards to take action like governors of both political parties in other states to combat the threat.

Donald Dunbar Jr., a student at Southern University, said his time at the state Department of Revenue showed him that the state's earned income tax credit is not serving as an anti-poverty tool.

Jacob Ellis, who lives in Athens, La. and attends Northwestern State University, studied craft breweries during his time at the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control.

Ellis said Louisiana ranks 48th in the nation in craft brewers per capita compared to Colorado at No. 2, "and their laws are a lot less restrictive."

The students were provided housing at LSU, and LSU offered three hours of credit through its Public Administration Institute.

They also received stipends of $1,500.

Field trips included trips to Angola State Penitentiary on recent criminal justice changes; Southern University to discuss civil rights and the D-Day Museum in New Orleans.

  

Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.