Confidence, Grit, and Passion

Interview with Shalanda Young: Democratic Staff Director, House Committee on Appropriations

Aimee Kerr
Shalanda Young

Today we interviewed Shalanda Young, the Democratic Staff Director of the House Committee on Appropriations. Her job has been said to be the “toughest job in congress.” Going into the interview I didn’t really know what to expect. I didn’t fully understand what her job was, and I definitely didn’t understand what a person with this type of job would be like.

The first thing I noticed about her was her cheerful spirit. She was funny and very engaging. I never once got bored during the whole interview. As she talked about the long hours and conflicts that came along with her position, I realized that she was the perfect person to do it. She never once talked about it in a bad way. She was full of confidence and passion, and you could tell just how much she loved it. This was very inspiring for me to hear. I have always assumed that jobs like this are the ones most people would avoid. To see that she loved it so much despite its difficulties gives me more motivation to go on a difficult path in college. It shows me that I don’t need to worry about something that will take a lot of effort because if I truly enjoy it then it will be worth it. It shows me that I can still be happy and have fun as long as I do what I love.

Like Young said, of course there will be hard times but that doesn’t mean I should ever give up. She never gives up, and she always comes back to her job. This just proves how incredible she is. You have to be a very strong person to be able to be so happy about a job where you are working so hard. I hope that one day I have as much passion towards my career as she does. I know now that I should never back away from something just because it seems difficult. I just need to find the right path, find something that I love doing, and then I won’t mind putting in the effort it takes to succeed.


Jordan Willis

Being on camera crew entails looking through a viewfinder for half of each interview in order to make sure each shot is up to par. The first impression I had of Shalanda Young was through the viewfinder of the camera when she entered the room. Even on that 2” by 4” screen, I could see her charisma, intelligence, and humor. Our interview with Congressman Tom Cole was just ending when she entered, so we ended up just seguing from the Tom Cole interview to Ms. Young’s. From the first question, she melded eloquence, prowess, and humor into each response, which made her easy to listen to and made me want to hear what she had to say.
The part of the interview that impacted me the most was her response to my question. I asked her, “Given that you are the first woman of color in a job that has been traditionally held by white men, what, if any, struggles have you experienced in handling this position?”

Her response? “Not that many actually.” I was very surprised considering I asked the question hoping to gain insight pertaining to the types of racism she experienced with a White House tainted by a leader who has repeatedly made racist remarks and given license to those who do the same. So when she spoke about not really experiencing any racism, I was surprised. She went on to speak more about how while she did experience some racist remarks along with a variety of sexist policies and comments, she believed that those were insignificant.

She looked me in the eyes and spoke to me about finding personal identity as a minority in a place of mostly white people. Her words resonated with me as this was something I constantly struggle with. Her approach was to find one’s worth as a person, regardless of race or gender, and to bring this to any situation. If one experiences discrimination or ostracism because of physical differences, it cannot become a defining part of one’s personality. I took this message to heart and was inspired to see how this type of mindset has elevated Ms. Young to such a position.

I walked out of the interview feeling fulfilled, and had an extremely satisfying and meaningful conversation with some of my classmates about the subject of racism and its subtleties and manifestations in our society. Today has been enlightening. I feel as if I have gained a good sense of how I want to conduct myself, and the philosophy I want to follow as a Black man, and more importantly, as a person.


Imogen Cockrum

After our interview with Congressman Tom Cole, we took a picture with him, and we heard a voice from behind us exclaiming, “Wow, I have to go after that?” (implying how well the interview with Tom Cole went). I realized the voice came from the one and only Shalanda Young. Immediately she made a great impression on us and was very friendly. As we were settling down to interview her, she kept smiling and making jokes with us. We got right to asking questions, and I noticed she answered questions very thoroughly. She had so much passion for her job. Her points were very insightful and struck a lot of us, including me. She spoke about being the first woman of color in her position and about the strength of moving past people’s opinions about her, which was something many instantly related to, as we are still growing up and learning to accept ourselves. She also spoke about the importance of building good relationships with coworkers and bosses, and how opportunities present themselves in ways that we may never know. She was young, but still wise in so many ways. She consistently used humor and jokes in her answers and related on a personal level to our lives by simply sharing her passion, struggles, and stories about her job.

She was so kind, and I’m so glad she gave us the opportunity to interview her. Having three interviews today, I was also glad she was our last one, as it felt like a good way to end a long day. She inspired me to keep myself open to new opportunities, and I hope Mount Madonna left a good enough impression on her, so that she is willing to be interviewed again by future MMS groups who travel to DC.

  • Tiffany Wayne

    I love hearing how so many of the people you are interviewing have challenged your expectations going on and maybe answered your questions in ways you did not anticipate. Very inspiring to read your thoughtful and detailed reflections! Makes me feel as if I am there! 🙂