From Jackson College to Capitol Hill: Julian Sanders' Inspiring Journey in Public Service


Julian Sanders is a law clerk for the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in Washington D.C., but his journey started at Jackson College.

“I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I was not able to have the opportunity to go to Jackson College,” he said. “Jackson College really afforded me a great opportunity to build a network, to learn about myself, and to get myself rooted and grounded in higher education.”

The Flint native wasn’t planning on going to college immediately but was convinced by his single mom to consider Jackson College.

“Once I learned about it and recognized all that Jackson College had to offer, especially the on-campus housing, and to really have that experience to get away from my hometown for a period of time, that was what really attracted me to Jackson College,” he said.

After a break due to his grandmother’s death from brain cancer, he returned to Jackson College to fulfill his promise to her of staying in school. During this time, Julian fondly remembers his participation with Men of Merit.

“I met a lot of good people and made life-long friends. I had a lot of support from my family and even from individuals at Jackson College including President Phelan, along with Antoine Breedlove with the Men of Merit, which was a very good organization bringing together young men, particularly young men of color, to be able to interact with one another on campus, in a safe space, and to engage in the community,” Julian said.

Julian’s public speaking journey began in the fifth grade when his principal at Mason Elementary in Grand Blanc, Michigan put him on stage to recite Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. This is something that has turned into a passion for him, ultimately leading him to write and recite various speeches years later.

“I really didn’t understand the impact of that speech at the time and the impact of public speaking general,” Sanders said. “I really enjoy being able to convey the message to people of hope and a sense of purpose. It has really allowed me to not only express my thoughts about what is happening in our country, but it affords me the chance to resonate and to relate to people, and to let them know they are not alone.”

After transferring to Grand Valley State University in the fall of 2019, Julian earned a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in criminal justice. Inspired by figures like Dr. King and former President Barack Obama, he wanted to continue contributing to the community.

“There are individuals who look like me in the political arena, many former and current community activists, lawyers, businessmen, and pastors, who are really hands on in the community; I wanted to understand what that’s like,” he said. “I wanted to be able to learn how to effectively contribute to my community in that arena because now more than ever government has a really large hand to play when it comes to the way in which we live today.”

During his time at Grand Valley, he got his foot in the door after becoming a government relations intern in Washington, D.C., during the summer of 2021, where he had the opportunity to analyze President Biden’s fiscal year budget, lead efforts among interns in creating memos and developing policy recommendations to senior staff.

“It was a really fulfilling experience to at a decent age, come to our nation’s capital and just learn the way government works and learn the way in which I want to be able to contribute making government work for all,” he said.

Since graduating from Grand Valley in the fall of 2021, he has worked under U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), even while attending law school.

“I’m humbled at the opportunity to have been able to work for him and to work through law school. It was a real sacrifice between my studies and work, friendships and even time with family, but the knowledge and experience with both has been worth it,” he said.

He aspires to a long-term career in public service.

“What that looks like, I’m not sure yet,” Sanders said. “I really am passionate about problem solving and being able to identify solutions for people, businesses, individual and cities, you name it. My desire is to help effectively contribute in any way possible.”

Julian is currently attending Michigan State University’s College of Law & Broad College of Business. He is on track to graduate with a JD/MBA in 2027.