By Michaela Gibson Morris
SALTILLO – Case Knight of Saltillo got quite an education over the past 8 1⁄2 months.
The University of Mississippi rising senior took on three internships with U.S. congressmen at the U.S. Capitol. He had a front row seat to the work of putting ideas into law and helping people back home navigate federal systems.
“Most people don’t get to see how it works behind the scenes,” said Knight, who has a double major in public policy and political science.
From January to May, he worked for Rep. Trent Kelly. He then went on to work for Arkansas Republican Rick Crawford and then Texas Congressman Mike Conway. Knight received college credit for his internships and completed 12 hours of course work online. During his internships, Knight said he was impressed with how hard the Congressmen and their staffs worked to craft laws and respond to the needs and concerns of their constituents.
“You’re really putting ideas and what you believe to work,” Knight said. “You’re working on something that affects so many people.”
Knight discovered politics and public service in high school. Nita Vasser, who was then a counselor at Saltillo High School, convinced Knight to go to Boys State. When he came back from Boys State, he started following the campaign of the late Rep. Alan Nunnelee. Knight felt a connection to the Tupelo Republican because his wife Tori Nunnelee was the Saltillo High School nurse.
“I started paying attention,” Knight said.
After he graduated and enter Ole Miss, he ended up volunteering for Sen. Thad Cochran’s re-election campaign.
“I guess it kind of snowballed,” Knight said.
From there he worked campaigns for Kelly, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, Mississippi State Rep. Chris Brown of Amory.
“I didn’t want to just talk about politics,” Knight said. “I wanted to do as much as I can.”
As an intern, much of Knight’s work was to answer the phones and read mail, record the information and get it into the system so they would get to the correct person. Some people wanted to share their thoughts on pending legislation and issues. Others needed help navigating federal systems. He also attended committee meetings and hearings, particularly the Agriculture Committee.
On his second day on the job with Kelly, Knight was asked to take the small business bill that Kelly authored to the House cloak room to begin its journey in the legislative process.
“It passed before I left,” Knight said. “I touched a small piece of something that affected lot of people.”
One of the coolest moments was a field trip with Kelly to the vaults of the National Archives. Knight saw George Washington’s handwritten inaugural address, the roll call for the first Congress, a letter from Daniel Boone, Abraham Lincoln’s notes on the Emancipation Proclamation and Ronald Reagan’s notes on a supreme court appointment.
“That was really special,” Knight said.
It’s unusual for members of Congress to have interns from outside their district, and Knight considers himself lucky to get the opportunity to intern with Crawford and Conway over the summer and share what he had learned as an intern.
“I was the only person in either office that wasn’t from the district,” Knight said.
Not all of the lessons were taught at the U.S. Capitol.
During winter blizzards, Knight ended up shoveling snow outside the Washington, D.C. row house he shared with 12 other college-age interns.
“There were only two of us who knew how to use a shovel,” he said.
Kelly provides a stipend for his Congressional interns, but most Congressional internships are unpaid.
“You really have to learn to stretch your money,” Knight said.
Knight finished his summer with the Youth Leadership School hosted by the Leadership Institute, a nonprofit conservative organization that provides training on political campaigns, fundraising and grassroots organizing. His efforts there got him invited back next summer to intern at the Leadership Institute.
Knight does aspire to work in Washington D.C. as a Congressional staffer after he finishes school, but he doesn’t expect that he will ultimately settle there.
“It would be a great opportunity,” to help people in Mississippi and around the country, he said. “But I expect to come back to Mississippi… Mississippi is home.”