USF in DC Fall 2015 participant
As I walked into my supervisor’s office on my first day to partake in what would be one of many “huddles” (office lingo for team and one-on-one check-ins), I glanced across her desk to see a sticky note posted on her computer screen which read, “Every day counts!” My supervisor, and every orientation I participated in as I began my internship, emphasized how precious a commodity time is in the White House. Knowing this, I approached my time in our nation’s Capitol with a framework of intentionality that I have come to appreciate as a University of San Francisco student.
During the fall 2015 semester, I had the privilege to participate in the Leo T. McCarthy Center’s USF in DC program. I take USF’s motto, “Change the World From Here” to heart and decided to carry it across the country, in my pursuit for tangible work experience in our nation’s Capitol.
I was one of over 150 interns selected throughout the country to work at the White House, where it was a distinct honor to serve at the pleasure of the President of the United States. I was delighted to hear that I would be interning in my first choice office, the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, which Senior Advisor to the President, Valerie Jarrett oversees. I particularly wanted to work with the Office of Public Engagement because of their commitment to serving, as what I like to call the “advocacy arm” or the bridge between our nation’s advocacy organizations and the White House.
I approached this internship with the experience I have gained because of the amazing opportunities that USF and the city of San Francisco have afforded me, such as previously interning at USF’s Cultural Centers, volunteering with the San Francisco Organizing Project, and working at the American Civil Liberties Union. The on-the-ground outreach and organizing skills I had developed while immersed here at USF and the local community better prepared me for working in public engagement on a national level, where I worked on the Latino and Immigration Outreach portfolio.
A few events I provided administrative support to included the White House immigration team’s Citizenship Public Awareness campaign launch, Hispanic Heritage Month programs, staffing the first ever White House celebration of Filipino American History Month, and the Holy See Arrival of his Holiness Pope Francis. The exposure that this internship offered me was not what I expected. The level of respect and teamwork I witnessed evoked a mission-driven office environment that made me feel very much at home. Never did I imagine that I would consider the White House a place I’d like to come home to, nor did I imagine that I would develop lifelong relationships with my colleagues at the White House or my USF in DC cohort.
As I continue to pursue a career in public service and advocacy, whether it be through government or non-profit work, I will take the lessons from my work experiences and my USF in DC politics courses with me. The classes I took, including Research Methods, Professional Development and Policy Advocacy, and American Political Journalism (which was taught at the Washington Post) were relevant and practical to interning in a Washington D.C. office. Moreover, through my experience interning at the White House, I will take away this important lesson: the potential for change relies on being able to build bridges between different communities, whether that means on an interpersonal level, organizational level, and across political ideology and party lines.
Nearing the end of my internship, President Obama met with all the interns and provided some lasting advice:
“Worry less about what you want to be. Worry more about what you want to do.”
The President approached sharing this advice as a community organizer whose commitment to social justice relies on applying knowledge and passion to action. His words reminded me of a quote by Leonardo da Vinci that I opened my personal statement with in my application to USF as a high school senior:
“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”
I want to express my deepest gratitude to the Leo T. McCarthy Center and USF in DC faculty for facilitating one of the most life-changing experiences one could ask for. I will always look back on my semester in DC as a cornerstone moment of my personal and professional development, one that could have not have happened if it were not for your commitment to your students in changing the world from here.
Apply for the USF in DC program starting in January by clicking here. Applications close March 6, 2016.