Author: ussyp

Alumni Spotlight – Nevada delegate creates legislation for financial literacy education

In the Nevada Senate Chambers, Evan Gong (left) stands with  Nevada State Senator Joyce Woodhouse and Kyle Walker, another member of the Nevada Youth Legislature involved in the legislation.

Recent alum Evan Gong (NV-2015) brought his Washington Week experience directly into the real world political arena. He crafted legislation designed to improve financial literacy education in his state and recently had his bill pass the Nevada State Senate and become law. Read on to learn what motivated Evan and the lessons he learned rolling his up his sleeves to bring his idea to fruition.

USSYP: How did you become interested in financial literacy for youth?

Evan: I’ve always been interested in business-related topics from an early age. However, I was particularly inspired to elevate the issue after completing an internship with a financial advisor. During the course of my internship, I encountered people who had no idea about what they needed to do in order to achieve their financial goals and others who were struggling with debt. I realized that this illustrated a broader, insidious problem – money is all too often a shunned topic and many people are not taught the tools to build a healthy financial lifestyle.

I was fortunate to be able to address the issue as a member of the Nevada Youth Legislature, a unique civics program in our state that allows young people to propose real legislation and gives them direct access to elected officials. I brought the issue to my state senator, Joyce Woodhouse, and she enthusiastically offered to sponsor the idea as a bill and graciously included me in the entire process.

USSYP: How did you build a coalition for your legislation?

Evan: During the process of extensively researching the issue, weighing policy recommendations and garnering support for the bill, I reached out to several key stakeholders, including the Nevada Bankers’ Association, the Clark County School District, the Nevada Department of Education and the Nevada Council on Economic Education. These initial stakeholders were instrumental to recruiting other supporters and testifying in support of the bill.

USSYP: How did the original iteration of the bill differ from how it came out of Committee? 

Evan: We made several amendments to the bill over the past three years. When we first introduced it in 2014, we proposed to integrate financial literacy into the mathematics standards. However, upon consultation with various stakeholders, we found that it was more prudent to enable the education officials to determine best placement. Other extraneous political factors also complicated the passage and the bill failed in 2015. However, Senator Woodhouse re-sponsored the bill in the next legislative session, expanding age-appropriate financial literacy curriculum to students in elementary school, adding economics as a required subject, and including an appropriation. Governor Brian Sandoval signed the bill, Senate Bill 249, on June 8, 2017!

USSYP: Will the proposal be both authorized and funded now that it has been enacted?

Evan: Yes, there is a $1.5 million appropriation to enable purchase of curriculum materials and enhance teacher training.

USSYP: What are the key lessons you learned during this process?

Evan: I was naturally disappointed when the bill did not make it out of the Senate in 2015. But in such a political environment, this can often occur. However, the important factor was that we did not give up. We proposed a much more solid version two years later, adding in funding and expanding the scope of personal finance. In the interim, I was able to consult more stakeholders, resulting in more input, and more support.

Senator Woodhouse and Evan Gong after having presented the bill before the Nevada Youth Legislature

USSYP: Have there been supporters or mentors who have helped you along the way?

Evan: I am extremely grateful to retired Senator Valerie Wiener, who founded the Nevada Youth Legislature, for her sage mentorship. She served three terms as a legislator and was integral to helping me formulate the idea to bring to Senator Joyce Woodhouse. I am also thankful to Senator Woodhouse for her sponsorship of the bill and unwavering support, Ray Specht of the Nevada Bankers’ Association for his dedication in lobbying and building a coalition for the bill, and Chris Nolan of the Nevada Council on Economic Education for his important input. Special thanks as well to officials at the Clark County School District and Nevada Department of Education.

USSYP: Did your USSYP experience impact your decision to pursue this work?

Evan: Although I started this project before attending USSYP, my experience during Washington Week solidified my desire to pursue a path in public service and encouraged me to press on with my work on the bill, despite the initial failure in 2015.

USSYP: What is the most gratifying aspect of having this bill passed?

Evan: I think the most gratifying and humbling feeling of the whole experience is knowing that my work will have a significant impact on my community and state for years to come. If this policy can help just one person avoid the vicious spiral of debt or inspire a young person to invest in a Roth IRA, I’d consider the time and effort completely worthwhile.

Alumni Spotlight

Janelle Kuroda (center) with Elizabeth Hansen (ID-2012) Audra Morrow (RI-2012) during Washington Week, 2012 (photo courtesy of Audra Morrow)

We are honored to feature Lieutenant Commander Janelle Kuroda (HI – 1997) in the Alumni Spotlight blog. Janelle is an Alumna of USSYP as well as a three-time Military Mentor serving in 2006, 2007 and 2012. In her path since Washington Week, she has served the United States in many critical roles. We are delighted to share her inspiring story with you. We would note that her interview responses do not reflect those of the U.S. government or the U.S Department of State.

USSYP: By way of introduction, can you tell us about your childhood?

Janelle: I grew up in a close-knit, rural town on the Big Island of Hawaii. It was a great experience. There was a strong sense of community and people took care of each other.  I’m still in touch with my high school teachers and classmates today. Although I grew up in a loving family, I quickly witnessed the challenges communities can face. Through a college internship within the local court system, I learned about the prevalence of synthetic drugs, the consequences of drug-related crimes and the destructiveness of domestic violence in my town.

Years later, through my work at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), I was fortunate to have the opportunity to partner with foreign governments to develop programs on drug demand reduction and to empower men and women in law enforcement to address domestic violence. I was proud and honored to help deal with the issues that we often struggle with in our own communities.

USSYP: Where did you attend college? What were your academic and professional highlights?

Janelle: I attended the University of Hawaii at Hilo, where I studied political science, served as the vice president of the student body and participated in our Model UN Team. I am grateful for the excellent internship opportunities I had at our state legislature and in the district and circuit courts – these were all excellent experiences that prepared me for the rigor of law school at Boston College.

Janelle Kuroda with Lao high school students at a ceremony highlighting the contribution of computers and educational material to the Lao Commission for Drug Control and Supervision as part of a U.S. Department of State INL drug demand reduction program. (March 26, 2015)

USSYP: What is your current professional role? What are your activities in that role?

Janelle: I am a foreign affairs officer in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). In this role, I advance U.S. government foreign policy objectives on combatting corruption in international and regional anticorruption bodies such as the United Nations, the G-7, and G-20. I also manage U.S. foreign assistance in programs that help countries prevent and fight corruption, which is vital to level the playing field for U.S. businesses overseas and to protect U.S. national security.

USSYP: What is the mission of the INL?

Janelle: The INL works to keep Americans safe at home by countering international crime and illegal drugs, which breed instability abroad. INL programs help countries set up and maintain just and fair systems by strengthening their police, courts, and corrections systems. INL also promotes the establishment and implementation of international standards to combat transnational organized crime, corruption, wildlife trafficking, and other cross-border crimes. These efforts reduce the amount of crime and illegal drugs reaching U.S. shores and help protect U.S. and global economies.

USSYP: What are you involved with outside of your work?

Janelle: Outside of my work at the U.S. Department of State, I serve as a judge advocate (uniformed attorney) in the U.S. Navy Reserve JAG Corps. I am currently assigned to a civil litigation unit at the Washington Navy Yard, and it’s a great way for me to serve our country in another capacity. As a reservist, I have been able to seamlessly support and contribute to the Navy, to include providing legal assistance services to sailors and their families in Italy, and providing ethics advice to commands in Afghanistan and Bahrain.

USSYP: How did USSYP impact your path?

Janelle: USSYP played an important role in my career aspirations and development. I vividly remember Washington Week – it was an incredible way to experience the role of our federal government first-hand through the perspective of our highest public servants. Interacting with members of the armed forces for the first time and meeting the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff played a role in my desire to join the military after law school. The remarkable opportunity to hear from U.S. State Department officials piqued my interest in foreign affairs. Today, I’m privileged to work with and among these distinguished individuals, and use the lessons they shared on diplomacy and statecraft in my work at INL.

Over the course of my career, it’s truly been rewarding to be a part of the Washington Week experience for current USSYP delegates through my service as a military mentor, most recently 2012, by hosting a table at the U.S. Department of State luncheon during Washington Week and by participating in the mentoring events organized by the U.S. Senate Youth Alumni Association.

USSYP: Looking back on USSYP, what was most memorable?

Janelle: The entire experience was incredibly uplifting. It was wonderful to meet students from across America and to learn about different perspectives on pressing issues of the day, such as affirmative action and balancing the federal budget. It was also great to see the group evolve during Washington Week. We shared our dreams and goals, and by the end of the week, they seemed to be much more tangible.

 

Alumni Spotlight

2012 Alumnae (L-R) Mariam Ahmad, Amanda Patarino, Monica DiLeo and Molly Stoneman at the Annual United States Senate Youth Alumni Association (USSYAA) Alumni Day during Washington Week.

New blog feature: the Alumni Spotlight

With a new class of USSYP delegates preparing to arrive in Washington, D.C. next month, what a perfect moment to share how life-changing the Washington Week experience can be. Our first Alumni Spotlight features Amanda Patarino (CO – 2012) who points to her USSYP experience as a turning point in her academic and professional trajectory. Read about her path since Washington Week and the fascinating work she is doing in the presidential transition process. Stay tuned for more “Alumni Spotlights” in the weeks and months to come.

USSYP: What is your current role? What are your activities in that role?

Amanda: I am a research associate at the Partnership for Pubic Service, in our Center for Presidential Transition. In this role, I do data analysis, conduct interviews to document the transition process, work on data management on the federal workforce, help to create data visualizations, and my biggest project right now is managing the Washington Post Appointee Tracker. We are tracking 690 of the top Senate-confirmed positions that President Trump needs to fill in real time as they are nominated and undergo hearings in the Senate. Each day I learn something new about the appointments process, appointment types, or even term lengths.

USSYP: What does your organization do?

Amanda: The Partnership for Pubic Service is a nonpartisan nonprofit that works to make the federal government more effective for the American people. We have a few major work streams, including employee engagement, leadership development, federal hiring, government reform, and presidential transition.

USSYP: How have your goals changed or even evolved as a result of your recent work experiences?

Amanda: Before I worked at the Partnership, I always believed that the only way to change the government was from the inside out. The Partnership showed me very quickly that that is not true. I am committed to breaking the cycle of partisanship in our country and I’ve learned about different processes and strategies while working at the Partnership. Working on the presidential transition has also given me unique expertise and I would love to be involved with more transitions in the future.

USSYP: How did USSYP impact your current path?

10805577_10203396595810794_2854259568323554453_n

Amanda: USSYP was my first time in Washington D.C. and my parents always say they knew when they put me on that plane that I was never coming home. I absolutely fell in love with the city, not just because we were getting the insider view of D.C., but because I saw firsthand all of the problems out there to solve and the program itself showed that you can take a large group of diverse individuals with completely different backgrounds and beliefs and they can come together to find more in common.

USSYP also led me to Senator Cory Gardner, who has played a big role in my path. I introduced then-Congressman Gardner at a luncheon on the Hill during Washington Week 2012 and since then I have interned in his office on the Hill and worked on his campaign for the Senate. I’ve met some great, committed public servants through these experiences and further defined my goals and interests. I admire Senator Gardner as an extremely successful fellow alum, but also as a great representative of my home state.

USSYP: Where are you from? How has this influenced you?

Amanda: I’m from Lakewood, Colorado, right outside of Denver. Growing up in Colorado definitely shaped my view of the world, especially in politics. Colorado has been viewed as a purple state for a long time and I grew up watching politicians from the two parties work together and compromise. Colorado has a big urban bloc of voters and a lot of rural voters. I saw early on that there are, of course, issues that we disagree on, but there are a lot more things that we see the same way.

USSYP: Where did you attend college? What were your academic and internship highlights?

Amanda: I graduated from George Mason University in May. My academic highlights were writing my thesis on primary systems and partisanship, working on research that linked both data science and government, and taking an economics class with Steve Pearlstein (Pulitzer prize-winning writer for the Washington Post). I also had the opportunity to study abroad at Oxford University and spend a summer learning Spanish in Granada.

My freshman year I was able to intern on the Hill for fellow USSYP alum then-Congressman Cory Gardner. I actually took off a semester in Fall 2014 to work as a field director back home in Colorado when Gardner was running for Senate, and we successfully elected him the second USSYP alum to the Senate. That was a great moment—because I believe in him so much as a person and I have this great connection with him through USSYP.

425226_2965281486278_1025218831_n

USSYP: Looking back on USSYP, what was most memorable?

Amanda: Looking back on USSYP, there are so many moments that stick out, and especially living in D.C. now, I am often reminded of great memories from that week. More than anything though, I think meeting then-Congressman Cory Gardner was inspiring because he talked about USSYP being his first time in D.C., his first time surrounded by so many people his age who were interested in the same things he was, and I was feeling exactly that way. That was the moment when I thought, “Wow, I can really become someone in Washington, D.C. I am going to make a change here.”

USSYP: How did you become involved in the United States Senate Youth Alumni Association (USSYAA)?

Amanda: Going to school near D.C. in Fairfax, Virginia, it was important to me to attend the annual reunions (and host my fellow classmates who came into town). Last year, I met the incoming USSYAA President, Colonel Michael Gonzales and had a great discussion with him about professional development and where he saw the USSYAA going. A few months later he called to ask if I would be interested in serving on the board and I became the secretary. It’s a great way to keep connected with other alumni and arrange the events that keep us all coming back to D.C.

USSYP: What are you involved in outside of your work?

Amanda: Outside of work, I serve on the USSYAA board and as a member of the George Mason University young alumni program, Golden Quill Society. I also play soccer, run, and do yoga. I try to donate blood once a month and I am involved in organ donation awareness because it’s an issue close to my heart.

USSYP: We love hearing about USSYP reunions. Do you have any favorite anecdotes of reuniting with fellow delegates since the program?

604165_10204434235391135_7762817921691356749_n

Amanda: To this day, my fellow 2012 USSYP classmates are some of my best friends. Quite a few of us went to school in the D.C. area, but now that many of us have graduated, there’s about 15 of us who live here, and I’ve been working to organize monthly happy hours so we can meet up and talk about what everyone is up to, reminisce about our Washington Week and discuss current events.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit lots of my classmates and even spent 24 hours in Berlin with one while we were both studying abroad! We may have only spent one week together, but Washington Week was an experience that only the people who were there with me fully understand. It played a huge role in who I am today.

 

Photos courtesy of Amanda Patarino

 

The USSYP Ambassador Lunch: A Diplomat’s Perspective

USSYP 2016

German Ambassador to the United States Peter Wittig, keynote speaker at the most recent United States Senate Youth Program Ambassador luncheon, has been playing a key role amid significant political upheaval since his March 2016 speech.

The early summer vote in the United Kingdom to separate from the European Union has changed the political landscape, and Ambassador Wittig has become a calming voice highlighting the necessity of international collaboration to tackle global issues such as trade, fiscal policy and the refugee crisis. His Washington Post Global Opinion column on the issue was published on September 14. He affirmed that “Germany Stands By Its Commitment In The Refugee Crisis,” in Huffington Post days later on September 17.

Ambassador Wittig addressed the 2016 USSYP class at the historic Anderson House, home to America’s Society of the Cincinnati. The richly decorated interior and the grand staircase showcasing 14th century Venice in José Villegas Cordero’s The Triumph of the Dogaressa created an unforgettable tableau for an afternoon focused on international diplomacy.

photo-2-2016-amb-at-podium

Ambassador Wittig shared experiences from more than three decades of foreign service as he addressed the attentive audience before him. He reflected on his early career, describing long meetings and late nights at the United Nations, saying that it was “Particularly rewarding to serve your country in those posts, shaping solutions to problems.” He characterized the German – American relationship as a “transatlantic engine,” noting that cooperation between the two nations is strong and multifaceted. He again championed this cooperation, in the realm of intelligence sharing, in a May 2016 article by intelligence expert David Ignatius.

One hundred and four high school student delegates - two from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity - take part in the 54th annual United States Senate Youth Program held in Washington, DC on March 5-12, 2016. (© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin).

Ambassador Wittig described several shared challenges facing Germany and the U.S.,including transitioning to clean energy to alleviate climate change, incorporating immigrant and refugee populations into a diverse society, guarding against the rise of terrorism, and maintaining strong economies both at home and globally. Using the current migrant crisis as an example, he stated, “Only a joint approach will solve this crisis, a joint approach that addresses the root causes of the refugee influx, especially the war in Syria, the instability in the Middle East and other regions, improving the situation in refugee camps and supporting the transit countries in the region.”

His audience of high school juniors and seniors seized the opportunity to ask a first question about college affordability, comparing the differing systems in America and Germany. With a knowing nod, the ambassador responded. His own son, a high school senior, had been in the midst of the college application process, and he readily acknowledged the excellence of American higher education.

One hundred and four high school student delegates - two from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity - take part in the 54th annual United States Senate Youth Program held in Washington, DC on March 5-12, 2016. (© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin).

The USSYP annual Ambassador luncheon always highlights our global interconnectedness, and reveals a literal world of public service career opportunities. Ambassador Wittig’s closing words reminded his listeners that they are all ambassadors; that international partnership depends on “Thousands of people-to-people contacts and relationships, from students, to scholars and scientists, to cultural and social figures, to business and political leaders —  and these ties especially depend on you and how you and other young people fill them with life.”

One hundred and four high school student delegates - two from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity - take part in the 54th annual United States Senate Youth Program held in Washington, DC on March 5-12, 2016. (© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin).

 

USSYP 2016

© Photos by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin

The Alumni Insider’s View on Making the Most of a Congressional Office Internship

The U.S. Senate Youth Program encourages motivated and high-achieving young leaders to be directly involved in our participatory democracy. Countless delegates leave Washington Week wanting to get a deeper view into the workings of the legislative branch – either by returning to D.C. or working in their senator’s or representative’s state offices. We caught up with a few recent USSYP alumni who interned on Capitol Hill following their Washington Week experiences. Read on to get tips on how to find an internship and what life is like once you do!  

Many thanks to:

Ethan Cartwright (MS – 2013), intern for Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS)

Monica Marciano (VA –  2016), intern for Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA)

Maria Mendoza (NJ – 2015), intern for Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ)

Samuel Miller (KY – 2015), intern for Congressman John Yarmuth (D-KY-3rd District)

How did you secure your internship?   

Maria: I applied to be an intern in Senator Cory Booker’s New Jersey office for the summer following freshman year. I began the process through his website with an application that included personal information, a writing sample, a brief essay, a copy of my resume, and references. The process wasn’t too arduous, and the senator’s staff was incredibly helpful whenever I called in for a clarification. A few weeks later, I was interviewed by the staff and later notified that I received the internship. A major concern of mine was funding, particularly because my university requires a student contribution for tuition regardless of aid status. I was able to find a stipend opportunity at my university’s Institute of Politics and get the matter sorted before starting my internship. I highly recommend potential public service interns look into similar opportunities at their respective campuses!

miller-interns-blog-iiSamuel: I was interested in interning during the summer following my freshman year. The application process involved contacting my Congressman John Yarmuth’s office for the required forms, sending in a resume and cover letter, and conducting a phone interview with the one of the congressman’s staff members. Efforts to reach out are important, but I tried to strike a balance between showing interest and overloading the office with emails. For me, it took four months from first contacting the office in November to receiving a decision in February. Even after I was accepted, I made sure to respond promptly to any inquiries from the office leading up to the start date. For the interview, I tried to predict the questions in advance so that I would be better prepared. During the interview, I highlighted why my district was special to me, my past experience with leadership positions, and why public service motivates me.

What was a typical day like for you?      

Ethan: Serving as an intern for Senator Wicker during my spring semester of junior year, I had a wide range of responsibilities. As the intern assigned to the senator’s executive assistant and scheduler, my typical responsibilities consisted of assisting in fielding meeting requests from constituents and lobbyists, arranging the senator’s calendar, booking (and often troubleshooting) his travel and maintaining his records. However, no two days on the job were ever alike. Since the senator’s time is a premium commodity, scheduling staff must always remain flexible and should learn to expect that things will not go according to plan!

Maria: I was based in Senator Booker’s New Jersey office working within the constituency. My responsibilities included three key types of work: (1) organizing the “clips”, or newspaper clips pertaining to the senator’s activities or major policy matters in the state for the staff’s viewing every day, (2) inputting constituent inquiries into the senator’s constituent services database, and (3) writing memos and other types of briefs for key issue areas. Although the clips were just completed first thing in the morning every day, the other tasks would just be given based on when staff members needed assistance. Interns would also have rotating shifts answering calls at the front desk, which I was assigned to twice a week. Additionally, I got to attend multiple events as part of the senator’s office, such as press conferences with the senator on topics such as the Transportation Security Administration and gun control, a Hillary Clinton rally and visits to the New Jersey State House and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.

marciano-capital

Monica: As a summer intern for Senator Kaine, I attended committee hearings and meetings with constituents, and I assisted staff members with special projects and press clips. In addition, I was responsible for recording voice mails from constituents, giving tours of the Capitol, and delivering correspondence between offices. Occasionally we had the opportunity to have lunch with Senator Kaine, Chief of Staff Mike Henry and other staff members.

Did you have the opportunity to spend much time with the senator? In what capacity?               

Ethan: As an intern for the executive assistant, I interacted with Senator Wicker on a daily basis. This often involved providing him advance information before meetings and appearances and even driving him to certain engagements. What surprised me most about Senator Wicker’s office was how interested the senator was in his staff. Senator and Mrs. Wicker took personal interest in the well-being of staffers and interns.

Maria: I definitely spent more time with Senator Booker than I was expecting, particularly because I was interning in my state and not in D.C. However, he kept a strong presence in New Jersey throughout the summer and I spoke to him several times at his events and at the office. The senator is incredibly down-to-earth and makes the effort to get to know his interns. Unfortunately, I was traveling and could not attend, but at the end of the summer, the senator hosted a movie night with all of his summer interns to get to know them better and treat them to a meal. All of my experiences reflected his genuine interest in our success.

What advice would you give to others on how to have a successful experience as an intern?

Maria: I would advise others to act as if every day on the job is another interview, and to bring the same energy and enthusiasm to all assignments. Oftentimes, interns aren’t given the most interesting work. Many don’t think of their ideal job entailing receptionist work or the organization of filing cabinets, but the fact of the matter is that if it has been assigned to you, it will probably make someone else’s day a bit easier, and that person won’t forget it. Once you make that kind of impression, you start being entrusted to do the work that you really want to.

marciano-internsMonica: Take advantage of all the resources that are available to you. When else will you be able to roam the halls of the Capitol, talk to specialists in five different policy areas, and attend a speaker series with politicians all in one day? During the Congressional breaks (when the Senate was in recess), I had the unique opportunity to get lunch with several staff members, who gave me advice on everything from law school to networking. I also made sure to attend as many committee meetings as I possibly could, and I believe that these briefings have given me a deeper understanding of issues Congress is working on, including combatting the Zika virus and the implementation of the Every Child Achieves Act. I would also recommend using your fellow interns as resources. As one of the youngest interns in the office, I was able to learn so much from the older students about college, the job search process, and politics.

Samuel: Take advantage of your time in D.C. and on Capitol Hill to create a network. Most people in D.C. are very ambitious and have high expectations for themselves, and you should embrace the opportunity to connect and share your own goals. Don’t be shy, especially within the first couple of weeks. Make friends with the other interns and staffers in your office, but stop and say hi to those in nearby offices as well. Keep in touch with interns you meet at intern lecture series events. Make a D.C. bucket list with your friends of things to do. There are so many free activities and museums to check out in D.C. For instance, your intern ID card gets you into the Library of Congress main reading room, which is the most beautiful room I have ever experienced. When speaking on the phone with constituents, be kind and considerate. Many of those who call are not in the best mood, but they just want to have someone who will listen to their concerns and opinions.

Was there a particular event or moment during your summer that stands out as a highlight?

Ethan: One of my favorite memories was when USSYP Program Director Rayne Guilford came to the office to talk with the staff about the possibility of Senator Wicker serving as a Co-Chair for the 2017 United States Senate Youth Program. I was invited to join the meeting and provide a former participant’s perspective on how beneficial the program is to young people. It was awesome when Senator Wicker agreed to be a Co-Chair!  

marciano-kaine

Monica: One of my duties as an intern for Senator Kaine was to help the press assistant record articles about Senator Kaine’s vetting process for the vice presidential nomination. As media outlets began to capitalize on speculation surrounding Secretary Clinton’s decision, every day I would receive an increasing number of press clips to record, with titles like “Will Tim Kaine Be Clinton’s VP?” or “Ten Things You Need to Know about Tim Kaine.” I noticed the mounting anticipation not only in the number of articles that came pouring into my inbox, but also in the buzz that enlivened Russell 231. In between the meetings with constituents, the letter writing, the committee hearings, everyone was wondering: would Senator Kaine be the nominee? On Friday, July 22nd, we finally received the answer we had been hoping for. Glued to the TV screen, I watched as this very surreal story began to unfold.

Samuel: It was very difficult to come to work after the Orlando shootings took place in mid-June. I felt sick that tragedy like this was the new normal and I didn’t want to sit idly by without something getting done. It turns out that I didn’t have to wait very long. Several Democratic House members – including my Congressman John Yarmuth – organized the sit-ins for gun control legislation soon after the shootings occurred. While my congressman and others were fighting on the House floor, I was in the office answering phone call after phone call. Whether they called in support or opposition, I was just excited that people cared strongly and wanted to respond. So many people disapprove of government and Congress in particular, but we can’t let this lead to indifference. We need to encourage people to be engaged in the political process. The other interns and I chose to stay late on some days so that we could continue taking calls. I could tell we were part of something historic.

What advice would you give to other students about getting an internship on Capitol Hill?

Ethan: Most Congressional offices want interns who are willing to learn and understand that all functions in the office are valuable. Highlighting previous experience you have working as part of a team and contributing to a goal, even if you weren’t the one taking the lead, is a great addition to your application!

Monica: Don’t be afraid to network! The Hill is all about building personal relationships. Getting a recommendation from someone with a connection in the senator’s office could mean your resume gets pulled from the bottom of the pile. Also make sure to keep in touch with the office after your internship. Many of Senator Kaine’s legislative assistants and staffers were once interns, and they were able to get jobs by updating the office regularly.

miller-interns-blog-i

Samuel: Before sending in your resume, make sure it is updated and read through it for spelling and grammar. Let someone with fresh eyes read through it as well. When considering which office to apply to, it definitely helps to be from that person’s district or state. If you are intent on avoiding your district or state, it is especially important to have an answer to why the district or state of your new selection is special to you. I would also recommend looking at internships with committees. As a candidate, you should prepare for interview questions about your strengths and weaknesses, what public service means to you, what you would like to get out of the internship, why the congressperson’s district or state is special to you, and what political issues you are passionate about. It may sound odd, but I recommend smiling through the phone interview because it makes you sound happier and more passionate (don’t do this for in-person interviews as it will look very weird). What makes Capitol Hill internship interviews special is that talking politics is fair game. I suggest being frank while at the same time considering the valid arguments and counterarguments. To secure the internship, you do not necessarily have to agree with your congressman or congresswoman, but it is important to know where he or she stands and the work he or she has already done. Do your research on the congressperson’s website. And remember to always ask at least one question of the interviewer.

 

Photos courtesy of Monica Marciano and Sam Miller