Marist Student Brings Global Perspectives to the Campaign Trail
Goodman Lepota Hones Political Management Skills Interning for Hillary Clinton
Goodman Lepota ‘18 hails from Johannesburg, South Africa, where he was raised by a single mother. Lepota was always an exceptional student (he can speak four languages: English, Zulu, Sotho, and Afrikaans) and was selected to attend the African Leadership Academy (ALA) for high school. ALA selects only 100 high-achieving African students in the African continent each year. Lepota was part of the Class of 2013.
During high school, Lepota was a nationally recognized debater who often represented his province of Gautang in debate competitions. “My school was not that well-recognized but I was still able to get to a prestigious level of debating,” Lepota explained. He would organize debate tournaments for his school and served as the editor-in-chief of his school newspaper.
After high school, Lepota decided to take a gap year in order to travel. He visited England, Scotland, and Rwanda before moving to California to start a business in Silicon Valley. He was the only international student in Draper University, an entrepreneurship program run by investor Tim Draper. Although they provided Lepota with funding, Lepota opted for attending college.
“There was a part of me that thought there was a value, an immense value, in getting a higher education,” he said. “Hence, I decided college was what I wanted to do. As for whether or not it was a good decision, yes, I think it was.”
Lepota attends Marist College as a MasterCard Foundation Scholar. According to the foundation’s website, it is given to “young people who are committed to giving back to their communities.”
Lepota chose to attend Marist because the size of the school “meant a lot” to him. “It’s more about who I am as a person,” he explained. “I’m a bit of an introvert. I want my peace. I need some peace and calmness to some degree. I needed a school that was near the city where everything was happening but was still very calm and small where I could thrive.”
What piqued Lepota’s interest in Marist was a visit from Marist admission counselor, Joe Giacalone. He visited ALA while Lepota was attending and while Lepota was not present for his talk, other students that were there told him all about it. “So many students told me the school sounded like it was a great fit for me,” he said.
Now, at Marist, Lepota studies business and political science. “I’ve always been interested in politics and what it can do,” he said. “I believe in the institution and the idea of politics in a way that I believe it can change people’s lives and have such an impact. I’ve seen it in South Africa.” There are programs in South Africa, he said, that can really help the people. He grew up “benefiting” from what the government had put in place. “I’m not a fan of handouts but I believe in the idea of the government being able to transform people’s lives,” Lepota said.
At Marist, Lepota serves as the Creative Director for The Circle newspaper. He describes the idea of his position to “transform the role” of the newspaper on campus. His goal, he said, is for the newspaper to become as “reputable” as the Yale Daily News or the Harvard Crimson.
To add to his already impressive resume, Lepota decided to apply for an internship for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. When she announced her candidacy, he said, he went on her website “right away” and applied for the position. He was interviewed and selected for the job in May 2016. He began as a political intern and then worked in communications. “It is perhaps the most exciting and life-changing experiences I’ve had in my life,” Lepota said.
One of his most vivid memories of Clinton, he said, was while he was still a student at ALA when she was Secretary of State. She gave a “town hall” with CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour and Lepota’s school was invited to give questions. He was one of the students chosen to go to the consulate for the event. “Being raised by a single mother, Clinton’s campaign resonated with me,” Lepota said. “There was this idea of ‘fighting for us.’ I’ve always viewed my mother as a fighter, seeing her role in my life waking up every day to go to work to support me. She did all of that for her child and that was very inspiring to me.” That was how he connected to Clinton, he said. He saw her as a “fighter,” too.
During his time at Marist, he has worked on several campaigns for student government (SGA). After working on Clinton’s campaign this year, Lepota knows he wants a future working in politics. “I want to be at the forefront of solving some of the world’s most complex and challenging problems,” Lepota stated. “In order for me to do that, I can’t do it alone. I have to empower other people who have the potential to do it. I know it’s not a one-man show. I’m very driven to empower others.”
Lepota said that he can see himself working in campaign management some day. “I could empower the candidates that are the most qualified and equipped to get the job done,” he said. “If I have an understanding of how the political system works, then why not find the most ethical people to do that?”
Written by Adriana Belmonte '17
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