Over a month ago, an internship that provided me a life-changing experience ended. But to tell you about the internship I first need to take you all the way back to when I was still going through the interview phase. In February, two days after my twenty fourth birthday, I was supposed to be informed whether I had passed through the initial application phase to receive an interview or not. Well, I didn't hear from Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI), so I assumed I wasn't offered one. But then to my surprise, I received a call on my nephew’s birthday that asked when I wanted to interview.
Well, first off, I felt like, “Oh snap, I got the interview, but I have less than a day to prepare!” No biggie, right? Amidst this pressure, my school was incredibly supportive and found a space for me in less than twenty-four hours. Once the interview was over, I left feeling like, “Okay, Alex, if God wants you to receive it, you will.” I will forever remember the day my phone lit up with an incoming phone call from Washington, DC. I was sweating and so nervous.
Of course, before they revealed my fate, they went into great detail about how great all of the other applicants were. I was thinking to mentally begging (her) to please just tell me if I got it or not. All I heard was we would like to offer you a spot in the Foster Youth (FYI) cohort of 2017. I accepted then called all my family members and friends. I remember going outside to cry because I was so excited and honored to be able to go to DC for the summer.
Fast forward to May, it was the night before I left for DC and I couldn't sleep. My mind was racing, there were tons of things I was nervous and scared about. I just remember my parents and biological mother saying how proud they were. I keep thinking you got this and as long as “You leave an impact on Capitol Hill then you are starting there.”
When my plane finally reached DC, I was in awe. I just remember thinking, “How does a girl from small city Kansas make it to Washington, DC?” I was one of the first to get in, so I got to meet my RA and, let me tell you, she was the best! She made sure we all were comfortable and welcomed us with so much love. I walked into my dorm room at George Washington University and saw handwritten notes, gifts from the board, and other helpful supplies from other generous organizations that supported us.
I knew I was loved and in a great place before my internship even started. I remember meeting everyone that first night and thinking, “Wow! We are twelve phenomenal foster alumni from different backgrounds all working for one goal.” I remember reading how the other interns had done so many great things already and would continue doing so this summer and beyond. That first night after meeting everyone, I called my mom, of course, and let her know that I was so nervous and scared. She reminded me that I can do it and she was absolutely right.
The first week was full of training and networking. Meeting past alumni of the program and also meeting different people who were involved with CCAI. So, I meet wonderful individuals that first week. One so happened to be in the office of my home Senator Lankford on the press team. As the summer went on, I got to know him better and his office staff in the press office.
On my first day in the office on Capitol Hill, I was nervous beyond all means. Let me tell you, I cried that morning. I was extremely early and was nervous, I thought that they thought I was weird. So, I was blessed to be placed in the Committee on Ways and Means Majority under Representative Kevin Brady from Texas. Within the Committee I worked in the Social Security Office. The placement was a little boring at first sine I knew very little about Social Security, and I didn't come from a policy background. I got to meet my intern coordinator who was so great and insightful.
My first week was just getting to know my office and the environment. Thankfully, I didn’t work on Friday's since the FYIs worked on our Policy Report. This was helpful because I had down time in my office to work on my policy report and some policy experts in the office gave me feedback and helped me understand what needed more work. In the first few weeks after that things started to mix together. I just remember getting to meet Senator Pat Roberts from KS, it was an amazing feeling to get to sit in the Senator's chair for 5 minutes.
My office allowing me to go briefings, hearings, and many others so much that I started to understand and gain more of an interest in policy and politics. There were so many issues that I heard about that I never thought people on the Hill actually cared about. So, I started to think differently about politicians cause they all aren't that bad.
A few of my favorite events that happened this summer was the Member of Congress Luncheon, CCAI FYI Congressional Briefing, Networking Luncheon, and FYI Domestic Policy Council Briefing. Besides those being some of my favorite events, we had the opportunity to meet several Champions for Child Welfare.
The Friday before the Member of Congress Luncheon, I had the honor of meeting Representative Roger Marshall out of Kansas. During the meeting, I invited him to the Member of Congress Luncheon, which I thought he wouldn't be able to make it on short such notice. However, as the Luncheon was coming to a close, in walked Representative Roger Marshall! I was incredibly honored that he took ten minutes out of his day to come over and meet with me.
After meeting Representative Roger Marshall, I was able to bump into Senator James Lankford Press Secretary, which he invited my friend and me over to Senator Lankford's Java with Lankford. Which happened to be the next day which was wonderful, because I was starting to miss the Midwest. Being able to talk and meet to people from the Midwest it made my whole week because it reminded me why I was there.
A few weeks went by before the CCAI’s FYI Congressional Briefing! This was the best thing, I've ever done! Imagine being in the Ways and Means hearing room with so many powerful individual's being there to listening to your policy recommendations. Even though it was the best thing I've ever done, it was the most nerve-racking thing. I've never been big on being open about my personal life. I'm the worst person to be around when my nerves are out of whack. I was so emotional about the experience. But I was able to put my emotions aside and handle business.
Leading up to the Congressional briefing, we got to invite our Representative, Senators and anyone else who deals with Child Welfare. I was honored that Chairman Brady came to my congressional briefing to come hear my policy recommendations. That he took five minutes out of his day to hear my policy recommendations has made such an impact on my life that no one will truly understand. If he can take five minutes out of his incredibly busy schedule to come listen to me then I can certainly do the same for other people. The next day, was when everyone who worked on the Ways and Means Committee or in the Chairman Brady’s personal office got to take a picture with him. It was a wonderful opportunity and, since happened it after my briefing, because it happened the day after my briefing I got to talk to Chairmen Brady about my policy briefing and tell him that I appreciate him being there.
Besides working all summer, there was several things that I spent time doing with my fellow cohort members. Between viewing the amazing art work that is within DC, going out to some clubs, attending the Washington Nat’s game, and just learning who the amazing 11 individuals were. This summer challenged me to step out of my comfort zone to make new friends. I never thought in less than 10 weeks, I could form some amazing bonds with people for the rest of my life. I feel honored to have met the other 11 amazing FYIs’ that were selected to be a part of this internship.
The impact that Capitol Hill has made on my life and heart will carry over into my professional career. I have gone from not knowing anything about policy at all to wanting to continue to work within policy for child welfare - all in the course of one summer! There were so many events that happened over the summer that I can't hope to recount all the details. I am still processing all of the ways that this summer has shaped my life. A number of words can't express how much this summer has meant to me. Even though I didn't touch on every single detail. I just touched on the moments that touched my heart and changed my perspective on Capitol Hill, Politics and Politicians.
To everyone who helped me thrive this summer, I truly appreciate it. Without all of the hard work and time you invested in me, I would not have been able to take so much away from this experience.