Polk State College student A’Lysha Neloms will take to Capitol Hill this summer as an intern with U.S. Congressman Darren Soto’s office.
The Lakeland native who comes from a single-parent household with three siblings hasn’t traveled outside of Florida much and shared that it will be an exciting semester of “firsts” for the college sophomore.
“It will be my first time moving out, even for the summer,” Neloms said. “I will have to learn how to pay rent, take the metro to Capitol Hill, and everything that comes with being on my own, and with this internship, I will be the first in my family to ever do something like this.”
She recalls shock and happiness when learning about her internship opportunity.
“You hear about other people getting things like this but when it’s you, it’s surreal,” Neloms exclaimed. “I can be a nervous person but [one of my mentors] shared that being nervous is understandable and that me getting this experience will help other students realize that these opportunities are available to them at Polk State as well.”
“I can be a nervous person but [one of my mentors] shared that being nervous is understandable and that me getting this experience will help other students realize that these opportunities are available to them at Polk State as well.”
“She told me I can be a leader for others,” she added. “That has helped me overcome the nerves, knowing that I can help inspire other students to try new things and take a chance.”
Neloms graduated from George Jenkins High School in 2018 and took a few semesters off to figure out what she wanted to do before enrolling in college. Polk State was her top choice due to its affordability. Pursuing an Associate in Arts degree with a transfer major in Finance is inspired by her upbringing in a household where money is tight, but everyone does their part to help support the family.
She plans to transfer to the University of Florida through the state’s 2+2 articulation program, which allows students to transition seamlessly from a state college to a state university. Students who earn an Associate in Arts from a state college fulfill the general education requirements for a baccalaureate degree and are guaranteed admission to one of the 12 state universities. Polk State’s transfer intents allow students to also complete prerequisites for the programs or degrees they intend to seek at universities.
“Choosing finance is really helping me do two things at once – improve my financial literacy, which has been important to me due to my background, and providing me with a foundation to one day start my own business where I can incorporate something that I like to do,” she explained.
Neloms wants to double major at the university level and is interested in areas including political science, international relations, and law while continuing toward her bachelor’s in finance. She could see herself working in investment banking and opening her own firm or becoming a changemaker. Maybe she’ll do both.
“As I’ve gotten older and have gained an understanding of what is going on in the world, I want to be a part of that and do something for the world, whether it’s locally, nationally, or global,” Neloms said. “I would like to find a career where I am part of the community, progressing in it, and helping the community progress.”
She is on track to graduate from Polk State in December. In addition to her studies and upcoming internship, Neloms also serves as Vice President for the Honors Program, Vice President of Scholarship for Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, Student Engagement Specialist for the Student Government Association on the Lakeland Campus, and a work-study student in the Polk State Lakeland Campus Art Gallery.
“At Polk State, we have professors and staff members who really care about you – you can tell.”
“At Polk State, we have professors and staff members who really care about you – you can tell,” she said. “I’m enrolled in two online classes that I will be finishing while I’m in my internship, and my professors have been really encouraging and supportive, telling me that if I need any help or if it becomes too much, to let them know.”
“There is a lot of encouragement at Polk State,” she added. “It keeps you calm and lets you know you’ll be fine because you have a support system here.”
Polk State President Angela Garcia Falconetti is part of that system. She met with Neloms prior to her departure to offer support and motivation. She met with Neloms prior to her departure to offer support and motivation and invited her to welcome the Florida College System Council of Presidents to its May meeting at the Polk State Lakeland Campus. Falconetti serves as COP Chair.
“We are all incredibly proud of and excited for A’Lysha as she embarks on an invaluable experience in both her internship and in life. She is a shining example for her peers and of the opportunities that are available for students through our College and community,” Falconetti said. “I am thankful to Congressman Soto for his unwavering support of Polk State and our students.”
Congressman Soto is a longtime supporter of the College, visiting with students on campus and at the state and national levels, and encouraging them to apply for internships with his office. He has also served as the keynote speaker for Polk State’s Hispanic Heritage Month Kickoff and hosted the Future Forum Youth COVID-19 Relief Town Hall at the Polk State Center for Public Safety.
In her internship, Neloms will have the opportunity to research legislation, attend hearings and briefings, answer phone calls and letters from constituents, and learn about the legislative process and the functions of a congressional office.
Polk State has prepared her well, she said. The Student Activities and Leadership Office (SALO) will also help fund her housing and airfare costs.
“My professors and mentors have prepped me and continue to encourage me to get out and try new things,” Neloms said. “I’m thankful to Polk State and I am thankful for this internship. I’m really excited as well – it’s a big deal.”