DC Internship Influences Decision to Join Teach for America
In the summer of 2011, I found myself working two blocks from the most important house on earth. It’s the place where decisions that affect the entire world are made and the home of the most powerful person in the free world. It’s the White House.
Originally I had my eyes fixed on a prized White House internship, but that dream was dashed when I received word that I wouldn’t be offered a position in the summer cohort. Days later, however, I received a call from the Director of the White House Council for Community Solutions. She conducted an impromptu interview with me for a position in her office (the White House internship program had passed along my information). Within a matter of minutes I went from being internship-less to having a summer job working for an agency of the US Executive Branch.
On my first day, I met with my direct supervisor Rosa Moreno-Mahoney, the Deputy Director of AmeriCorps State and National. My task for the summer, Rosa explained, was to “better tell the story of AmeriCorps” and use any of the Corporation for National and Community Service’s (CNCS) resources available to me. With budget cuts looming, many people in Washington had been talking about the eventual devolution of programs like AmeriCorps. My job was to clearly and convincingly display the tangible benefits of the program and to demonstrate that the benefits of AmeriCorps outweighed its cost.
Over the course of three months I combed through multiple data sets and brochures, and interviewed numerous AmeriCorps members in an effort to analyze the impact that the organization was having on the nation. The research techniques and regression analysis skills I learned at Cornell proved very useful in this process. By summer’s end, I compiled all of my data into a succinct report, which I presented to key CNCS stakeholders. Ultimately, the research showed that AmeriCorps’ programming brought jobs to young people who would not otherwise have them. This finding was compelling because it directly paralleled the goal of the White House Council, which was to ameliorate youth unemployment.
I walked away from this internship with many fond memories. I had worked closely with a number of senior White House and CNCS staff; I had participated in closed door meetings with my boss; I had even met President Obama. But the most memorable event was my site visit with the National Director of AmeriCorps John Gomperts. He and I toured an underprivileged school in the Anacostia neighborhood of DC where AmeriCorps volunteers were leading an afterschool program. It was at that point, when I saw these servant leaders in action making our country better, that I knew for certain that I’d had the right internship all along. This singular experience heavily influenced my subsequent decision to join Teach for America. After graduation in May, I will be moving to Houston to teach in a school there.
During my time with the White House Council and AmeriCorps State and National, my professional skills became markedly sharper, along with my ability to problem solve. CIPA’s focus on hands-on learning opportunities was one of the main reasons I had been drawn to the program in the first place. It is a demanding MPA, which trains its Fellows to have a dedicated approach to solving complex issues. But most importantly, Fellows who go through the program seem to come out with a much-enhanced commitment to public service.