Shaheen intern program gives aspiring politicians real-world experience
By Saba HamedyAugust 5, 2012
WASHINGTON – Jillian Joyce, of Milford, was 6 when she met U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.
The Villanova University senior remembers walking alongside Shaheen in the Milford Labor Day parade in 1998, when Shaheen was running for governor.
Fourteen years later, Joyce is walking alongside Shaheen again, but this time it's on Capitol Hill, and not as a spectator, but as one of her interns.
"For me, it really brings the experience full circle," said Joyce, who interns with seven others in Shaheen's Washington office.
Joyce, who is majoring in political science and is vice president of Villanova's College Democrats, said Shaheen made her feel like she mattered from the moment they met.
"By simply taking the 30 seconds to stop and take a picture with a 6-year-old, she made me feel valued," Joyce said. "I cared because I knew I had a stake in my government. As a result, every time we learned about civics in school, I paid attention because I thought it was important.
"Her simple act influenced my interest in government, which brought me to where I am today."
Like many members of Congress, including fellow Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Shaheen has internship programs for students such as Joyce.
The program is geared toward college students trying to make their way into politics.
Applicants must send in a resume, a writing sample that explains why he or she wants to be an intern, two letters of recommendation, an application form and a college transcript, according to Shaheen's website.
"One of the most important things we can do is to inspire young people to give back to their country through public service," Shaheen said in a statement. "We take that mission seriously and try to ensure that each intern has a fulfilling experience and is exposed to as many different aspects of government as possible."
In addition to doing basic day-to-day administrative activities, such as answering the phone, giving tours of the Capitol and writing memos, interns in Shaheen's office participate in various traditions.
One of the most highlighted traditions is "intern shadow day," when interns are given an opportunity to go with the senator to all of her activities on a given day, including committee hearings, meetings with constituents and events.
The interns share their thoughts on the "Intern Corner" on Shaheen's Facebook page.
"As I saw throughout the day, Senator Shaheen is able to move adroitly between meetings with foreign dignitaries and New Hampshire residents who have concerns about various issues," wrote intern Govind Ramagopal, of Livingston, N.J.
"I could not have asked for a more exciting day to shadow such an incredible individual," wrote intern Matthew Weinmann, of Bow. "The day will always be a highlight of my time spent as an intern with Senator Shaheen."
Other traditions include an intern lunch, at which all of the interns socialize with Shaheen, and signing the "intern book," a journal in which all interns have a page to write about their experiences.
"It's not common that senators will connect on a personal level with interns, and shadow day is the senator's opportunity to do that," said Mark Gordon, Shaheen's deputy press secretary, who interned for Shaheen as an undergraduate at Trinity College in Connecticut.
Gordon said he's one of seven members of Shaheen's staff who once interned in her office.
The internship program "is pretty unique," he said. "Senator Shaheen is a former schoolteacher and brings an attitude much like a schoolteacher to the intern program. She wants to connect with everyone who comes to her office. She learns your name the first day, knows your backstory and makes you feel very connected to the office."
Shaheen said she looks forward to the lunch with the interns and to intern shadow day because she said she "gets an opportunity to learn more about each (intern) individually.
"I'm grateful to these students for their service to New Hampshire and hope many of them go on to pursue a career in public service."