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Notes from the Capital

2017 Kinder Scholars D.C. Summer Program Student Updates

For Round 2 of our “Notes from the Capital” series of updates from our undergrads out in D.C., we have first person accounts of the intern’s life and more from rising senior Lauren Russ (International Studies) and rising junior Tom Coulter (Journalism/History). We’ll let them take it from here…

from Lauren

“This summer I’m interning with Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (MO-5th). When I accepted a position with Congressman Cleaver, I was a bit intimidated, this being the first intern position I’ve ever held on Capitol Hill. From what I’d seen on TV, the workplace in Congress was fast paced and waited for no inexperienced interns. Luckily, when I began the Tuesday after Memorial Day, the House was in recess, and I was able to learn my way around before all the Representatives returned.

Once Congress was back in session and the great whirlwind of tasks came my way, I was more than prepared. Whether it was helping log mail and calls or writing a statement for the Congressman to use in an online video, I was beginning to feel like I could hold my own. Most importantly, if any of the staff members needed assistance, I was the first one in line to help.

The most exciting moment of my internship so far came out of left field so to speak! I was sitting at my desk writing up a memo, when the Congressman walked up and told me we were going to a Minority Senior Whip Meeting. I could not believe my luck (or the fact that the Congressman knew my name!). Walking with the Congressman through the Capitol, he explained to me the purposes of these meetings and how important they are to the party. It was such a great experience being able to sit in on a meeting with some pretty famous members of Congress, all discussing policy and ideas for the future of the party.

Now that I’ve interned in D.C. for about 6 weeks, I can really see myself living and working here one day! It had always been a dream these past few years at Mizzou to be able to work for the Federal Government out on the East Coast. From the University of Missouri campus, though, Washington, D.C., felt like a fictional place that I would never get to experience. After college and possibly law school, I am confident that I will come back to D.C.  Not only is this city the hub of all national politics, it’s also a city of great opportunity!”

from Tom

“Through the Kinder Scholars class, I’ve gotten the opportunity to explore the complexity of ideas that shaped the city we’re living in this summer. Whether discussing the varying opinions among women during their battle for political and economic equality or the grizzly history of the city’s ever-changing neighborhoods, I have enjoyed digging into the nuances of Washington, D.C. Likewise, working as an editorial intern at Street Sense has allowed me to confront the city’s complicated issues firsthand. Before coming to D.C., I knew America was far from perfect, but seeing the everyday lives of people experiencing homelessness has forced me to reckon with this fact on a more intimate level. The topics we are reading about and discussing in class have helped me reconcile with this experience, as they underscore how my feelings mirror those of people from other moments in history. Several historic figures we’ve studied in class fought to improve the world in which they lived, and their examples have helped me understand my role in a society that still has a lot of work to do.

While it’s been tough to see the conditions of many district residents, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed interning at Street Sense. The paper operates on a much tighter budget than most publications, and producing journalism under these constraints makes for a fun challenge every week. Since my first day, I’ve gained a much clearer idea of how a large city like D.C. operates, allowing me to pursue stories that would’ve been difficult for me to write beforehand. I was particularly proud of one I wrote about D.C.’s new diversion program. When the D.C. Attorney General tweeted a link to the article, I knew I had accurately captured the city’s efforts to improve conditions for youth experiencing homelessness.

The field trips every Friday have added crucial depth to topics we’ve explored in class. Like my experiences reporting around the city, each trip has reminded me that researching and studying topics from a room only goes so far. Without seeing firsthand the distance Frederick Douglass walked from his home in Anacostia to the heart of the city every day, even in his old age, I wouldn’t have been able to truly appreciate his dedication to the abolitionist cause. The field trip highlight for me so far has been visiting Monticello. Exploring how Jefferson’s home mirrors his complexity and contradictions was a real treat. Also, Dr. Dierksheide provided useful perspective from the Monticello Institute, underscoring how historians play a crucial role in shaping people’s thoughts on figures like Jefferson.”

More of Tom’s work at Street Sense can be found here, and Round 1 of the “Notes from the Capital” series can be found here.