Makeda Okolo says the staff in the office of Del. Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands) is “a lot like a family.”
Okolo, who grew up in St. Croix, says being with people from her home — many of her colleagues are also from the Virgin Islands — makes her excited to go into work each day.
She says she relishes her time on the island.
“It was fun — that goes without saying — because you live in your own private paradise,” she says. “You’re able to live your life experiencing and taking advantage of things — the beach, the rainforest — things that people live their lives dreaming about.”
When Okolo, 21, first came to the states in 2002 to attend American University, she says, she was in awe of the city but wasn’t as enthralled with the people: “I felt like everyone was just consumed in their own lives. They don’t take time to find out how someone else is doing or even enjoy the environment around them.”
People are one thing, but the climate is another. For Okolo, the weather has been the biggest shock. “I’m always cold,” she says, explaining that she uses an electric blanket and that her friends laugh at her for blasting the heat in her apartment.
A senior majoring in environmental studies, Okolo says that working on Capitol Hill has tied in with her degree, noting that she is helping Christensen’s legislative director with a bill on rising sea levels and how that affects coastal communities.
Okolo also helps with Christensen’s newsletter and coordinates political rallies and other appearances for her boss.
When she is not studying or working, Okolo is busy fulfilling her duties as president of the Caribbean Student Association at American, organizing the group’s events. Okolo also tutors children at the Cultural Academy for Excellence.
In her downtime, she enjoys cooking dishes like curried shrimp and tofu stir-fry. A history buff, Okolo likes to go to the National Archives. She can also be found at poetry clubs and museums.