Congressional Black Caucus Foundation intern discovers pull toward civic engagement at UMSL

Aleathea Williams

Aleathea Williams spent her summer in the office of Rep. William Lacy Clay and is looking for opportunities to get back to Washington to work on policy. (Photo by August Jennewein)

From hearings of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, seminars at The Washington Post and even an awards ceremony she attended at the French Embassy, Aleathea Williams packed a lot into her summer in Washington.

The senior political science major at the University of Missouri–St. Louis spent the majority of her time in the nation’s capital in the office of Congressman William Lacy Clay, accompanying him to meetings, manning the phones at the front desk or attending to other tasks given to her by his permanent staff. She landed there through an internship organized and funded by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

The up-close look at government in action – and sometimes inaction – made a lasting impact.

“I feel more empowered. I feel more educated. I feel more empathetic,” Williams says. “Sometimes you look at your local and state reps, and you think, ‘Oh, they’re not doing enough. They should be doing this and this.’ But being there, I actually saw what my congressman was doing and saw what other congressmen and congresswomen try to do. I saw how hard it is sometimes when you’re in a markup session and you can’t get any amendments approved for the bill when you worked so hard on them.”

Williams, a Kauffman Scholar from Kansas City, Missouri, came to UMSL in fall 2015 intent on studying nursing. It was about a year after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, and she soon found herself drawn to politics and policy issues after attending several protests.

“I realized I wanted to do something more for my community, and I felt like I wanted to work within politics and law,” Williams says.

Since then, Williams, a student in the Pierre Laclede Honors College with aims of attending law school, has found numerous ways to help propel herself down that path. She is a former vice president of Associated Black Collegians, a Sue Shear Institute fellow and past participant in its 21st Century Leadership Academy and now the vice president of the Student Government Association.

It might only be a matter of time before she heads back to Washington.

“I want to feel like I’m using my voice,” Williams says, “and actually making an impact for those that look like me.”

This story was originally published in the fall 2018 issue of UMSL Magazine. If you have a story idea for UMSL Magazine, email


Short URL: