James Knupp

Elgin High School graduate James Knupp isn’t content to just talk about what goes on in Washington, D.C. Instead, he’s doing something about it.

James Knupp is a graduate of Elgin High School's Gifted and Talented Academy James, a Bartlett native who graduated from Elgin High’s Gifted and Talented Academy in 2011, went on to receive a bachelor of arts degree in political science in December 2014 from American University in D.C. His concentration was in American government with a minor in Russian language.

Having found his experience as a government relations intern at the American Enterprise Institute beneficial, he got a job as a research assistant in the area of defense and foreign policy studies with the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in the nation’s capital. He recently was promoted to research associate, which he said means, “I can write works and be published.”

James’ ultimate goal, though, is to make government work smarter.

“I’d like to help steer the government into more sustainable and better policies, especially on the defense and foreign-policy front. … I want to be working in public policy – which is what I’m doing now – but in more of an outreach role, more in government relations, working with Congress and the federal government to achieve their policy goals and objectives.

“The ultimate goal is one day to run an outreach or government relations office for a think tank or trade association or nonprofit, or something of that nature.”

James credits his experiences at EHS for setting him on his current path, and singles out two teachers in particular for their influence, starting with John Devine, his AP U.S. History teacher sophomore year.

“He was the one who got me passionate about American government and history and culture,” James said, “and he was the one who encouraged me to go to American University.”

James also credits the now-retired Gordon Whiting, who taught social studies courses, including economics and sociology.

“He was the type of person who really encouraged your interests,” James said. “He was always willing to talk to you after class about things not in the lesson plan, talk in more depth, and he would suggest additional reading so that you could go on and do and learn more.”

James also looks back fondly on his overall experience with Elgin High School and its academy.

“I felt I got a lot out of it. I would definitely say I was a bit of a nerd, but the nerd fit in at the academy. It was a good place to be a nerd.”