Capitol Hill Internship Program (CHIP) by Monna Sabouri

By: Monna Sabouri

July 5, 2012, Washington D.C. –¬†This summer, through the PAAIA Capitol Hill Internship Program (CHIP), I have been working as a Candidate Services intern for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). The CHIP, available through a generous grant from Dr. Akbar Ghahary, provides PAAIA interns with the opportunity to intern on Capitol Hill or administration with supervision and mentorship from both PAAIA staff and a congressional mentor.

For my internship, under the direction of DCCC staff, I have assisted in populating databases, setting up and assisting at fundraising and policy events, providing information on the role of the DCCC, responding to inquiries from constituents, assisting with managing weekend volunteer groups, and lobbying against an increase in interest rates on Stafford Loans.
Though I am only half-way through my internship, I can count the ability to assist at various events and participating in the “Student Debt Day” as two of the highlights of my internships to date.

An election year is a time of ongoing activities, including fundraisers and meet and greets, that are set up by the DCCC. In my capacity as an intern, I have aided at numerous events and have met many of our political leaders, including the frontline members and “Red and Blue” candidates. Though the primary goal of the events is to raise money for the candidates seeking election, as an intern, these events have afforded me a glimpse into politics that would not have been possible through the traditional classroom setting. The opportunity to speak with various candidates, albeit very briefly, has given me a sense of the commitment that is needed for a career in public service.

I was also given the opportunity to participate in “Student Debt Day” on June 6, 2012 in the Senate House. On this day, students were given training in lobbying and provided with information on the importance of lobbying Senators to prevent the interest rates on Stafford loans from doubling. I was assigned to lobby Senator Gellibrand’s office with other student interns from New York to state. We were able to meet with some staff at the Senator’s office and provided them with information on our concerns. Standing up for an issue in a structured and informative manner, along with others who would be similarly impacted, was an empowering experience and one that allowed me, for the first time, to consider a possible career in lobbying.

The additional benefit of this experience was an invitation that was extended to the participating interns and students to the White House. On June 21, 2012, I, along with other students who had participated in student debt day, listened to president Obama’s speech on this subject. It would be difficult to imagine an experience as an intern that would surpass the opportunity of meeting and listening to the President of the United States. That meeting and his words of encouragement were a true inspiration to all of us who participated in the meeting.

Though I had high expectations for my internship with PAAIA, I can say that the experiences of the past few weeks have truly surpassed these expectations. The internship has allowed me to not only better understand the world of politics and public policy, but has given me a glimpse into what happens behind the scenes within the political arena. It has also helped me better understand the skills and experience I need to develop if I wish to participate in any form of public service. Though I have a strong academic background, I have realized that, internship such as the one provided by PAAIA, is a true indicator of whether or not the world of public policy and politics is one that I wish to pursue. I am indebted to PAAIA and Dr. Ghahary for this experience.

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