March 18, 2019

This nonprofit is creating a new pipeline for a diversity of students to intern on Capitol Hill

Meet the finalists for the 2019 Renewal Awards, a program of The Atlantic and Allstate. Five winners will receive a $20,000 prize from Allstate.

Audrey Henson founded College to Congress to create more opportunities for the best and brightest to be able to intern on Capitol Hill. Photo courtesy of the nonprofit

Editor’s note: Meet the finalists for 2019 The Renewal Awards. The annual program that honors nonprofits that are creatively solving problems in their communities is a project of The Atlantic and Allstate. This year, five winners each will receive a $20,000 prize from Allstate. Winners will be announced April 3 at The Renewal Summit in New York City. You can watch a live stream of the event, which begins at 9:30 a.m. EDT, on our Facebook page.

Congressional internships can be a way to bring new diverse voices onto Capitol Hill, but since most of these internships are unpaid, it’s impossible for most young people to pursue the opportunity.

With the hope of bringing diversity into America’s political system, Audrey Henson created a nonprofit that supports the next generation of public servants who otherwise would not have been able to afford the chance. College to Congress (C2C) is a non-partisan organization with a mission to change the traditional congressional staffing pipeline by creating a more inclusive and effective government.

[ Read: Meet the finalists for the 2019 Renewal Awards ]

“We provide the access to critical internship experience in Congress and cover all costs associated with the internship so that they can fully participate in the work environment and DC political culture,” Henson wrote to use via email.

Spending the summer as an intern in Washington, D.C., can cost as much as $10,000, and on Capitol Hill, only 10 percent of internships are actually paid. This creates a problem for young, diverse leaders with limited financial means and without any political connections. College to Congress is trying to end that barrier by providing financial support to cover interns’ expenses—which can include a professional wardrobe, transportation, housing, meals, and various other needs. C2C works with students who are Pell-grant eligible and come from families with financial need and congressional offices to achieve this goal.

“As a result of our work, congressional staff better reflects the American population and subsequent policies will better address the needs of society because the staffers have directly experienced some of our most pressing issues,” said Henson.

C2C applicants come from 168 colleges and universities and 40 states. Students in the program also get to attend a three-day boot camp to better prepare themselves for their time in Congress. Additionally, throughout the internship, there are weekly professional development seminars. These interns are paired with a bipartisan ally, a senior-level staffer of the opposite party, to have constructive dialogue on today’s most pressing policy issues. All of these trainings help prepare students for leadership roles. After graduation, C2C then helps these previous Hill interns secure full-time jobs in Congress as an effort for congressional staffers to better reflect the American majority.

“We’ll know we’ve succeeded when there is a public-private partnership and pipeline that allows for talented students, regardless of their financial background, to serve their communities in paid internships at the local, state, and federal level.”

Follow College to Congress on Twitter @C2C_DC. Donate to the nonprofit here.

Danielle Moskowitz

Danielle Moskowitz

Danielle Moskowitz is a contributor to The Renewal Project.