Politics are a daily part of American life. From conversations at the dinner table, to near-constant updates online, political discourse is everywhere — as is the need for well-educated Catholics in the center of it all. This summer, several Christendom students are taking on this responsibility as interns in congressional offices and in think-tanks, gaining valuable work experience while also making a positive difference for their country.
For some of these students, this is not their first time venturing into politics in between academic years. Maria Vicente, a rising senior, worked for the Media Research Center last year as a reporter, where she helped identify bias from Spanish media networks, edit video clips, write and translate articles and publish them, as well as research projects for the organization over the summer months. This summer, Vicente wanted to challenge herself further and work in a completely different environment: a congressional district. After months of hard work, she was hired as a congressional district intern for Congresswoman Maria Salazar’s district office in Miami, Florida.
“I started applying online during Christmas break and was interviewed and accepted while I was in Rome,” recalls Vicente. “[Director of Career and Professional Development] Kristin Stephens was a huge help in that process and I am so grateful for her encouragement and advice that got me to the internship of my dreams. She spent so much time reviewing my application essays and making sure they were perfect for my application. She truly showed outstanding dedication and support.”
After spending time on Capitol Hill last summer, Vicente is seeing a different side to politics working within a congressional district. While internships on the hill tend to focus on policy and legislation, district offices focus more directly on the people of a district. In her role, Vicente works to help create a welcoming environment for the constituents of the district, helping them with any federal needs such as immigration and passports, taking their phone calls and personal visits, attending community events, and providing a weekly brief on the condition of an assigned municipality.
Vicente is getting to make a direct impact on her community in her role, becoming part of a solution that is changing lives for the better. That same desire to encourage others to thrive inspired rising senior Mary McCloskey to take on an internship at the Heritage Foundation this summer, following in the footsteps of many past Christendom students who have done the same.
As an intern for the Edwin J. Feulner Institute at Heritage, McCloskey is assisting with conservative coalition events and outreach, attending events centered around conservative policy and law, and conducting research on political issues and policy solutions. While this is McCloskey’s first venture into politics, she is being inspired daily to do more to help her fellow citizens.
“I believe that working in Washington, D.C. this summer has allowed me to work towards an America which encourages its citizens to thrive as human beings in every aspect of their lives, keeping the priceless dignity of every person at the forefront of every political decision,” says McCloskey.
Obtaining the internship at Heritage was a rigorous process for McCloskey, who relied on her Christendom education to succeed beyond her peers during the interview and application process.
“My Christendom education was indispensable in providing me with a holistic background in history, politics, and philosophy, which guided my answers to the various essay questions,” says McCloskey. “I would especially like to extend my thanks to political science and economics professor Dr. Kevin Burns, who generously took time to advise me regarding the application. He provided me with several leads to follow and went out of his way to provide me with a great deal of valuable information. I was very touched by his kind help, as I have never even taken a class taught by him. His willingness to meet with me speaks to the deep care Christendom professors display towards their students, which extends beyond the classroom.”
Rising senior Maggie Black received similar help when applying for her current summer position at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in Arlington, Virginia. In Christendom’s Education for Life classes, Black learned valuable interview tips and, in the college’s Advancement Office, Black honed her interpersonal skills as a manager of student callers. These skills, in addition to writing skills learned in the classroom, gave Black an edge in her applicant pool.
Following on her past two internships, where she worked in a senator’s office and at the Heritage Foundation, Black is now serving in the education and workforce development task force at ALEC, providing her task force director with research on current and pending legislation to help in the process of crafting ALEC’s model policies. She’s also been writing for ALEC, including an article on the current higher education system.
Black is passionate about taking part in politics, believing Catholics to be essential in influencing the culture for the better.
“In short, Catholics have a responsibility, in accord with their state in life and individual duties, to influence culture and politics,” says Black. “I believe I have been gifted with the passion and have learned valuable skills to contribute positively to the political process. While church and state should remain separate especially for the protection of the church, religion and politics never were and never should be separate considerations. Our morality informs how we act as a person, a neighbor and a citizen.”
Christendom’s liberal arts education and proximity to the Nation’s Capital has led to many students and graduates working in politics, helping to defend life in the halls of Congress and bring integrity back to journalism.
Vicente, McCloskey, and Black are striving to make their country a better place through their internships, which they hope will eventually lead to future careers in politics. America needs well-educated Catholics working to improve communities, cities, and the nation at large. These students are doing that now, following through on the college’s mission to “restore all things in Christ.”