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Miami Law student interns at White House

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Miami Law student Paul Agbeyegbe.

Paul Agbeyegbe on the South Lawn of the White House. That morning, he had volunteered to assist with gardening work in the First Lady's garden. (Photo: Miami Law) Full-Size Photo

Miami Law student Paul J. Agbeyegbe recently concluded a summer internship at the White House.

While his primary role as a White House Intern in the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs was assisting staff members to prepare for meetings with various constituent groups, his highest honor was helping with tours of the East Wing to veterans and other guests. His personal interactions with other White House interns are the ones he will treasure forever.

"Being a White House intern was an honor," said Agbeyegbe. "You never know who you're going to run into. I just tried to take make sure I wore a nice suit and smiled each and every day, while being prepared to assist staff members with the countless assignments going on at any given time."

As a junior at UM, Agbeyegbe took President Donna E. Shalala's class, U.S. Health Care Crisis: The Politics of Healthcare Reform. He excelled in the course and kept in touch with President Shalala. The 26-year-old second-year law student was encouraged to apply for the internship by President Shalala." "Paul has had the opportunity of a lifetime," said President Shalala. "He will be a better citizen because of his experiences at the White House." Also urging him on was his mentor for nearly 10 years, Marilyn Holifield, Esq., a member of UM's Board of Trustees.

Agbeyegbe grew up in Miami Gardens with his twin brother, Peter, and siblings, Celia and Joseph. Celia is completing her Master's degree in International Administration at UM and Peter is a student at FIU after serving in the Florida Army National Guard as a saxophone player for the Army Band. During his enlistment, brother Peter deployed as a team leader with an infantry unit to Kuwait, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Joseph is studying music at Miami-Dade College.

Agbeyegbe enlisted in the Florida Army National Guard at the age of 17, while still in high school, participating in Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps and was the program's Commander his senior year. His favorite television program at the time was "JAG" so he enlisted in the Army as a paralegal, with the goal of completing law school and being an attorney in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps. His permanent unit was stationed in Homestead, Florida with the 50th Area Support Group and where he won the 2006 Soldier of the Year award.

In 2005, Agbeyegbe was sent to help devastated Key West residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma and volunteered to go out on convoys to neighborhoods to distribute food, water, and supplies. He was awarded the Florida Commendation Medal after that mission.

He was later transferred to the 927th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, out of Starke, Fla., for a one-year deployment to Iraq. He was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for his service in Iraq. After returning from service, he came to UM to complete his undergraduate studies and graduated in 2011 with a double major in Political Science and African Studies before starting at Miami Law. At the same time, he completed his enlistment in the Florida Army National Guard with an honorable discharge and the rank of Sergeant.

"I have had the privilege of teaching and mentoring Paul Agbeyegbe and know him to be committed to service, whether in the military, his other professional choices, or his personal life," said Zanita E. Fenton, Professor of Law. "I'm certain that his experiences at the White House only add to the determination already innate in his character."

Agbeyegbe is a member of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) and the Race and Social Justice Law Review. He is pursuing a JD/MBA degree and was a member of the James Weldon Johnson program in the summer of 2011.

"My time at the White House has transformed my life in that I now want to dedicate my life to public service," said Agbeyegbe. "I have first-hand knowledge of the incredible sacrifice those in public service make every day and the profound influence they have over millions of American lives."