By MARINA WATERS
The Town of Jonesborough is turning its eyes to the future with its new intern position.
Last month, the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously approved an intern position that would allow a local student the opportunity to gain experience and a firsthand look into various Town of Jonesborough operations.
“I visualize this intern working with each department within the town a couple of weeks at a time and then rotating to a different department and kind of learning all the town’s operations,” Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest told the Herald & Tribune, “and (the intern) would have a chance to be a good ambassador for the town of Jonesborough.”
Vest announced the position during the July 13 meeting, saying the student who would fill the inaugural role would be Jonesborough native Ronquille Joyner.
“I watched Ronquille from afar as he attended David Crockett High School excelling in education and athletics,” Vest said, “but more importantly, I saw how other students and teachers respected Ronquille. When I saw he was selected as one of only eight students to join the Roan Scholar Leadership Program, I knew our town needed people like him to carry our town into the future.”
Joyner is a 2020 David Crockett High School graduate and will attend ETSU in the fall. He has also participated in theatrical productions at Crockett and the McKinney Center in Jonesborough and was a three-sport athlete playing football, basketball and track and field for the Pioneers. He was also a student board member for the Washington County Board of Education and has volunteered at the Jonesborough Area Ministerial Association Food Pantry for numerous years.
“I was contacted by Mr. Vest who explained to me an interest for someone who would work with the town hall or maybe as the mayor’s intern,” Joyner said. “I immediately told him I would love to step up for the position.”
Getting a taste of having his voice heard as a student board member among Washington County Board of Education members is part of what made the college freshman realize he still has work to do in Jonesborough before heading off to ETSU.
“That position gave me an insight into how our school system, town, and county works, “Joyner said. “It also allowed me to realize just how much power and emphasis I have as a student, citizen of Jonesborough, and in our entire area in general. I still have a lot of ideas I would have liked to (have carried) out before the school year was cut short. I plan to give my all and take full advantage of this opportunity, not only to learn, but to bring what I can to the table.”
Vest said his idea for the town intern position was inspired by the recent protests often involving young citizens throughout the U.S.
“Honestly, I felt like with all the turmoil around our country it was important our young people learn our governments can be trusted to serve us all,” Vest said, “and also that our town is full of good people they’d want to surround themselves with as they enter into adulthood. I also want our town to learn from the youthful thoughts of our young people, which should lead our town leadership to be protectors of our town’s future.”
Joyner, who plans to double major in Electronics Engineering Technology and Political Science at ETSU, said he wants to see how he can get involved locally to hopefully create change in today’s world.
“In the climate our nation is in right now, concentrating on national narratives can be stressful,” Joyner said. “However, I have to constantly remind myself the most power I have to help and improve our world is right here locally. There’s a lot I’m looking forward to, from learning the behind the scenes of how our town operates, to meeting new associates, to just the act of getting involved in a new task.”
In addition to planning for the new internship role within the town, the BMA is also considering what the position can mean for Jonesborough.
“My hope at this time — and I know the times are contentious — is that we have some kind of mind about the future to try to identify another young man or woman like Ronquille,” Alderman Adam Dickson said at the July 13 BMA meeting. “You don’t come across a Ronquille every day. I hope that as we create this position, we will be focused on trying to cultivate young men like Ronquille.”
Vest said the position will be discussed once again at one of the upcoming BMA meetings once the position is set in the budget and the job description is solidified.
“It’s approved.” Vest said, “We’re just going to work to get that budget money in there. It’s more of us approving our budget. Then we just have to work through the paperwork on that with Ronquille.”
Looking ahead, Vest is hoping the position could help future students learn the ins and outs of the town while also helping blend generations together for the future of Tennessee’s oldest town.
“I think this program will have minimal costs but big rewards so I expect it to grow into more interns for years to come,” Vest said. “We must learn from our youth to grow while we pass on the wisdom that’s made Jonesborough such a wonderful place.”
For Joyner, the internship offers hands-on experience along with the chance to potentially bridge that gap between generations.
“In Jonesborough, students in college, high school, middle school, and elementary are all part of the community,” Joyner said. “In the oldest town in Tennessee it can most definitely feel that new ideas, ideologies, or lifestyles of the upcoming generations are much different and perhaps left out. This internship can allow students to learn the in and outs of the town they spend so much time in and learn how to truly be involved. I’m only one person, but I can connect with many young and old.”