Several Clarion University students reported on their experiences as interns with the Washington Center from July 17-29, 2016 this week on Sept. 13 and 14 from 6 to 7 p.m. in Founders Hall.
Six students traveled to the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, OH, and 11 students visited the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia, PA. These were students who had taken Dr. Kevan Yenerall’s course, “National Political Convention Experience.” More students represented Clarion University in this program than any other university in the country.
During the first week of this internship, students were presented with a series of academic seminars concerning current issues in politics and their historical context. Students were required to write journals concerning these seminars, participate in discussion groups and learn about different aspects of the political system through mock experiences.
Stephen Hartley, attending the RNC, participated in an Electoral College simulation. “We as students have been given unprecedented opportunity to see politics in motion,” reflected Hartley.
Having been, in practice, given the task of determining a budget for Congress with other students, Hartley reported that he learned to appreciate the lengthy decision-making of Congress. “No one could agree on anything. Their job is much, much harder than we could possibly imagine.”
Kara Sorenson, who also attended the RNC, was particularly impacted by a seminar by Dr. Barbara Palmer of Baldwin Wallace University on women in politics. Palmer told students that women have been running for president since the 1800s.
Sorenson noted in her presentation that “they paved the path before they even had the right to vote.” Women, she asserted, need to remain politically active “so we can continue to make changes and continue to make [America] greater than it already is.”
Sociology major, Natalya Naranjo, attended the DNC and spoke of the emotional energy present in the political atmosphere. Surrounded by so many who were so passionate about the Democratic campaign, Naranjo recalled that, though she previously had no strong feelings regarding presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, it was easy to think, “Oh my god! She’s so great.”
In the second week of the internship, students engaged in field experience. Each student was placed within a different setting involving the national conventions. Amanda Conklin, a sociology and psychology major who attended the DNC worked with the One Campaign, an organization fighting poverty with which Bill Clinton is associated. Naranjo was placed as a runner for Fox News.
Robert Ellis said that his participation in this internship was “the opportunity of a lifetime.” One of Ellis’s favorite memories was meeting Republican candidate Donald Trump’s wife, Melania Trump. Students had the opportunity to meet and listen to many influential politicians. Don Corridori was introduced to Pennsylvania governor, Tom Wolf.
A program manager at the Washington Center for 17 years, Kathleen Regan, said that the program “shows students the potential they can have in government…that they can be the leader.” The Washington Center has been providing this particular internship since 2008, but offers opportunities for student engagement in similar internships in both the fall and spring semesters.