Indy student helps hometown as intern in mayor's office

August 18 2008

Shanel Poole knows what it means to have dreams. She also knows what it takes to make them a reality.

A junior at Indiana State University, Poole spent the summer working in the office of Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard. A wide range of duties enabled her to understand the hectic world of politics as she gained the practical skills needed for a career in the public eye.

"I feel like communication is the best way to do anything," Poole said.

Poole is double majoring in public relations and legal studies with a minor in Spanish at Indiana State. A McNair Scholar and recipient of a Focus Indiana Scholarship, she hopes to become a bilingual lawyer.

"The Hispanic community is just as involved as anyone else," Poole said. "When you know that you can build a relationship with people despite your race, it makes you want to work harder."

Hard work was a key component of her internship.

"It's a challenge, but it's a good challenge," Poole said. "I have to remember who I'm representing every day."

A native of Indianapolis, Poole applied for a position in the mayor's office as a way to give something back to her hometown.

"It's been such a blessing and an opportunity," she said.

Poole worked closely with the Department of Public Works and Front Porch Alliance. Much of her time was spent responding to residents who contacted the mayor's office about everything from potholes to abandoned buildings. It was up to Poole to make sure each concern made it to the right department.

"A lot of people don't know who to contact if they have questions about crime, housing or other issues," Poole said. "I just try to be of assistance."

All communication majors at Indiana State are strongly encouraged to work as interns and Poole's position as a point of contact in the mayor's office relates directly to the skills she's been learning in the classroom.

"The internship really is that kind of bridge between the program and the working world," said Deb Worley, a communication professor at Indiana State. "It teaches students how to negotiate the workplace."

For Poole, that meant learning how to work among various departments and keep the lines of communication open.

"Her job was to seek out opportunities to communicate between the office of the mayor and his constituencies," Worley said. "That's where she felt she could make the most impact."

As the summer progressed, Poole's duties increased. She helped coordinate an employment fair designed to provide job opportunities to ex-offenders and took part in a discussion on youth homicide at a convention of the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association. She also participated in this year's Indiana Black Expo and a rally called Peace in the Streets.

"You're never out of work. There's always something to do," she said. "I truly enjoy everything."

Douglas Hairston, director of the Front Porch Alliance, said Poole's work ethic enabled her to grow both personally and professionally from the experience.

"We relied heavily on our interns this year to provide some very important work for us," Hairston said. "Shanel was able to be a key component for a lot of our summer programs."

Though her future looks bright now, it has not always been an easy road for Poole. Dealing with a rough home life and problems in school, she eventually found herself living on her own and barely able to pay the bills.

"There was just a lot of heartache," she said. "I was struggling to find myself."

Her journey led her to the Christamore House. Located in Indianapolis, the Christamore House partners with communities in Marion County to offer people a sense of empowerment through social, educational, recreational and health programs.

Poole took advantage of the opportunities at the Christamore House and made a commitment to start achieving her dream of becoming a lawyer. She attended Arsenal Technical High School, eventually earning her GED. She was soon on her way to starting her first year of college at Indiana State.

"As a public relations major, I feel like that gives me an opportunity to speak to the public in a positive way," she said.

As she begins another year of college, Poole will keep up with her studies and start looking at law schools. She'll also have plenty to keep her busy outside the classroom.

Recently certified as a gang specialist, Poole can now work with schools and youth programs to help identify, deal with and prevent gang behavior.

She established a non-profit organization called GLAM (Gorgeous Ladies Acting Maturely), which aims to help girls and young women build self-esteem and develop positive life goals. She will also remain involved with the Christamore House, giving back to the organization that gave her a fresh start.

The daughter of Rochelle Poole, Shanel looks forward to continuing her work as an activist for crime prevention in Indianapolis. She plans to maintain the contacts she developed in the mayor's office as she helps others tackle some of the same struggles she once faced.

"I've been blessed to meet so many influential people," she said. "It's been a great networking opportunity."


Writer: Emily Taylor, assistant director of media relations, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or

Photo and cutline: Shanel Poole sits in front of a window overlooking the city of Indianapolis where she spent the summer interning in the office of Mayor Greg Ballard.

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Story Highlights

Shanel Poole, a junior at Indiana State University, spent the summer working in the office of Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard as a way to give something back to her hometown while gaining professional experience.

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