The last day of the Rappaport Fellowship. The closing celebration began at 5pm at the Harvard Kennedy School with a cocktail reception. All of the Rappaport Institute and Rappaport Center Fellows were there with their guests. In addition, dozens of distinguished members from the Rappaport Board of Directors and supervisors of the fellows were in attendance.
It was a truly wonderful evening. After cocktails we sat down at our tables for dinner and listened to the opening remarks. This is the seventeenth year of the Rappaport Fellows program. Through the incredible generosity of Jerry and Phyllis Rappaport, over 400 fellows have participated in the program. Many of the fellows have gone on to have influential careers in state and local government. Jerry and Phyllis Rappaport have created not only an incredible Rappaport alumni network, but they have also created a wonderful Rappaport family. Everyone in the room is committed to serving their communities and to doing their best to making the world a better place.
Before dinner was served, however, we all sang “Happy Birthday” to Jerry Rappaport who was celebrating his 90th birthday. Jerry Rappaport has had an incredible life of service in not only state and local government but also in the arts. He is a true role model of what it means to dedicate one’s life to bettering one’s community.
After wishing Jerry Rappaport a “Happy Birthday,” all 29 fellows, 17 from the Rappaport Institute and 12 from the Rappaport Center, gave short summaries of the work they had done throughout the summer. Although each of us were focused in a particular area, me with veteran’s benefits for example, together the 29 of us created a truly comprehensive tapestry of public service focused projects. I loved hearing about the other fellows’ work and I felt so lucky to have been a part of this incredible program.
After our speeches we sat down to dinner and conversation. Each table had at least one fellow. The rest of the seats were filled by people affiliated with the Rappaport fellowship. My wife and I had the honor of sitting with Jerry Rappaport along with a director of the Harvard Kennedy School, a former State Representative and political advisor, and a former US Attorney. To learn about their careers was another highlight of the evening.
After dinner, Jerry and Phyllis gave the closing remarks and reminded the fellows about the importance of public service and the incredible alumni network that we were now a part of. It was hard to believe that the fellowship had ended but I knew that the connections and friendships I had made this summer would last a lifetime.
It is hard to believe that it is already August. This summer has flown by. Having started working for Senator Rush in May, the past two and a half months have been an absolutely incredible experience. As I’ve hoped to capture on this blog, this summer in the State House has given me a front-row seat into what it is like to work for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and to see how an elected official, like Senator Rush, serves his district. I could not have hoped for a better placement and I am so thankful for the opportunity to have been a Rappaport Fellow and to have worked on this project with the goal of helping veterans. Senator Rush and his team have been gracious mentors. I have appreciated how much they included me on the day to day activities of the office and how they have given me the opportunity to work on a project that will hopefully help veterans in not only Massachusetts but in other states as well.
As I’ve done for the other sections, I have continued to read about Mid-West veteran’s benefits. This will be the biggest section I’ve tackled so far with a total of twelve states. The twelve states include: (1) North Dakota; (2) South Dakota; (3) Nebraska; (4) Kansas; (5) Minnesota; (6) Iowa; (7) Missouri; (8) Wisconsin; (9); Illinois; (10) Indiana; (11) Michigan; (12) and Ohio. I’m interested to see how this region, which in many ways will be a combination of the other regions I’ve analyzed, with both rural and urban areas, compares to Massachusetts.
The last official week of the Rappaport Fellowship. Although the Rappaport Fellowship will be ending on Wednesday, August 2nd, with the closing dinner at the Harvard Kennedy School, I will continue working in Senator Rush’s office until Friday, August 11th to satisfy Northeastern’s co-op requirement.
Today I continued working on the PowerPoint for the South-East region of the report. I also began to research the next region of my report: the Mid-West.
Having finished the written portion of the South-East section, today I worked on the accompanying PowerPoint. I understand that the full report may be quite cumbersome and tedious for people to read. The PowerPoints will provide executive summaries of each of the regions and quick “snap shot” slides that will distill my findings to one page per region.
Today I finished writing about the South-East region. I was surprised with the results. I felt that the two best South-East states in the region were Tennessee and Louisiana when it came to veteran’s benefits. This is because they not only had the broadest benefits that included the most veterans but because both of these states had programs that granted civilian certifications for a veteran’s previous military qualifications. Programs like this, I believe, truly help veterans make a smooth transition from the active duty military to civilian life.
Beginning this section, I would have thought Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida would have been the best states. This is because they are the most populous and wealthiest states in the region. In addition, there are many active-duty military basis in all three of these states compared to the rest of region. As stated above, I do not believe that these three states performed as well as Louisiana and Tennessee.
Overall, however, I believe that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the best state for veterans benefits when compared to the South-East because Massachusetts truly excels in some of the categories where the other states are only starting to have programs. These areas include: (1) Women Veterans; and (2) Reintegration Services. Massachusetts continues to outperform every state in access to veteran’s benefits because of the 351 Massachusetts Veteran Service Officers (VSOs) who have offices in every city and town in the Commonwealth.
Today was also the last scheduled Rappaport programming event. At 4:00pm I met the other Rappaport Center Fellows at Rosie’s Place, a shelter for abused and homeless women. From 4:00pm to 7:30pm all of the fellows, and acting director Mia Friedman, helped the full time staff make a home-cooked dinner for over forty women. From cooking twenty pounds of chicken to hundreds of vegetables all of us were whirling around the kitchen as we rushed to make the dinner deadline of 6pm. After making the meal, we helped serve the women who had come to the shelter for dinner. We had made enough food for people to have seconds and thirds and for us to have dinner as well.
It was a wonderful experience and a great way to serve the community. I would love to volunteer there again.
I spent most of the day researching and writing the final sections of the South-East portion of the report. It is unlikely that I will finish the entire report before my placement ends and I am planning on working on the remaining sections throughout the course of the year. I want to complete this project and want it to be as uniformed as possible.
In the afternoon, I joined the rest of the office in attending a presentation by the Athletic Trainers of Massachusetts (ATOM) give an information briefing about some proposed legislation. More than anything during my time in the State House, I appreciate the myriad topics and subject matters that the Representatives and Senators are exposed too. State and local government is truly the entire gamut of society with people advocating for thousands of focused interests. An elected official must rely on his or her own knowledge, research, and the help of his or her staff to assess all of the information presented to him or her.
I worked on my report for most of the morning and afternoon. At 1:00PM, I headed downstairs to the large briefing room to attend the Senate Speaker Series. Today’s guest would be Massachusetts Attorney General, Maura Healy. As a NUSL alumnus herself, I had heard a great deal about Attorney General Healy since I started NUSL last year. The Attorney General did not disappoint as she immediately commanded the room as soon as she entered the space. She spoke about her road to elected office and I appreciated her perspective as she had spent a long time in the private sector before deciding to run for office. Attorney General Healy mostly spoke about her office’s efforts to combat opioid abuse and to help the citizens of Massachusetts.
It had been an excellent start to the week having attended presentations by both Senate President Rosenberg and Attorney General Maura Healy.
This week started off busy with much activity throughout the state house. In the office, I helped answer phones and assist where I could. For the rest of the morning, I continued researching the South-East region of the report.
At 11:00AM, I attended the Senate Speaker Series lecture by Senate President, Senator Stanley C. Rosenberg. Although I have had the opportunity to attend many great speaker events throughout the summer, today’s presentation by President Rosenberg was one of the best. President Rosenberg talked about his circuitous route to elected office and encouraged all of the interns to never discount their experiences. All experiences are important in developing an elected official’s world view. I appreciated his frankness and willingness to discuss a plethora of topics on the questions asked by the other interns.
For the rest of the day I continued my research, making significant progress in the South-East section of the report.
Today I continued making progress in the South-East region of the report. I finished the “Educational Benefits” section and was pleasantly surprised. After their disappointing performance in the other sections, I appreciated that the South-East states seemed to dedicate a significant amount of resources to helping their veterans take advantage of their educational opportunities. Particularly when it came to vocational and trade schools, the South-East states have numerous programs that helped veterans make the transition from the Active-Duty military to civilian professions.
The best programs were those that counted military certifications to meet civilian profession qualifications. The importance of such programs cannot be underestimated because many military service members have reached professional levels when it comes to skills like welding, truck driving, or warehouse management. To be able to not have to retake classes on skills they have already mastered not only saves resources but also allows the veterans to make as seamless of a transition as possible into the civilian workforce.
For most of the day I continued making progress on my research. I finished “Business, Tax, and Financial Benefits” and began researching “Educational Benefits.” Today was a busy day in the Senate with all of the Senators in formal session to debate some of the upcoming bills and to vote on various amendments.
I had the opportunity to sit in on the later afternoon portion of the Senate session and watch Senator Rush vote on a few of the amendments. It is always great to witness the debate and to sit in the chambers as the Senators vote.