These rising college seniors earned their dream internships on Capitol Hill—then COVID-19 hit
The coronavirus pandemic has throttled future plans for students already challenged by disadvantaged backgrounds—that's why College to Congress is helping aspiring public servants and political leaders achieve their ambitious goals.
For the past four summers, College to Congress has placed nearly 40 students who are passionate about public service directly into congressional internships while supporting each student’s housing, transportation, airfare, wardrobe, and more. Due to the current global pandemic, we had to postpone our in-person internship program, but we created an online platform, C2C-U, and launched the Intern Opportunity Fund for students who need assistance making their internships still happen.
My team and I have worked tirelessly to take everything that we have learned about placing students into these sought after internships and have put it online for any student to access on C2C-U. We will be working personally with each student in our cohort who was disrupted by the COVID-19 crisis to deliver the best, safest experience possible. That’s why we are also launching our Intern Opportunity Fund. We needed an agile answer to a constantly changing problem for students who still need help to make their internship a reality.
Below, meet two of our students who, like their fellow interns, have brought consistency, creativity, and passion to the table—even in a global pandemic.
— College to Congress founder Audrey Henson
Edgar Vazquez, University of Houston
“As an undergraduate student, there are constant mixed emotions about the future, especially as it pertains to what we are working on; at a young age we are forced to decide what craft we want to dedicate our degree to. Thankfully, I was able to find my passion at a young age: politics. I have had the opportunity to work in various components of the political field, from grassroots canvassing to fundraising and consulting. Getting accepted into this year’s College to Congress cohort was a dream come true, an opportunity of a lifetime is how I view it.
“As someone who is working towards a career in public service, the C2C program means that I would have the unique opportunity to see how congressional offices work to serve their constituents. Interning in the halls of Congress is a special experience, and one that would help kickstart my career in public service. What better way to learn than to work with elected officials that dedicate their lives to serving the American people?
“To have the program suspended was very unfortunate but I am glad that I still have the opportunity to participate next summer. My academic future is ready to go in a couple of weeks as I start my fall semester via online courses. I am grateful that the disruption didn’t affect me on a bigger scale, given that I am a senior means that I’ll participate in the program directly after graduating. My experience with C2C-U has been great, to say the least. Having these resources for all students to have access to is wonderful. It helped me prepare for next year, along with writing down tips and advice that I learned from the courses and I look forward to applying them!
“This summer genuinely made me reframe my graduation plans as I was originally set to graduate this December 2020. After doing my research along with talking to my advisor and parents, I decided to take an extra semester, which will help me increase my GPA as I am set on obtaining my Masters in American Government. I would like to have the GPA necessary to take on grad school at my desired institution. Along with aiding my GPA, it also allows me to commence the College to Congress experience smoothly after wrapping up my undergrad next spring.”
Brianna Stonick, Boston College
“After pouring over my application for months, to be selected for the College to Congress Cohort of 2020 felt like a dream. For me, it wasn’t just any paid internship, it was a chance to catch my breath, focus on my future, and prove that hard work pays off in the end.
“COVID upended everything. It pulled me from my semester abroad in Paris, cancelled my dream internship, and left me scrambling to find housing. After quarantining on my sister’s couch, I ended up staying with my grandparents in rural Connecticut where I only get wifi in one room. I spent the first few weeks hunting for paid positions and beginning the thesis process. Incredibly overwhelmed by quarantine and the passing of my grandfather, I eventually gave up on both. Luckily, I found a position with the Alan Khazei (a Democrat from Massachusetts running for Congress) campaign. This has been an amazing learning experience and great preparation for next summer with C2C.
“In my search for some semblance of structure, I’ve become a big fan of the to-do list, even if sometimes they include silly things like ‘Eat Breakfast.’ Some weeks it’s harder than others to motivate myself, but I’ve accomplished some pretty cool things throughout quarantine. For example, I started an art Instagram, I’m in the process of drafting my Fulbright application, and I even joined a POC book club. C2C has been a great resource throughout this all; They’ve provided me with access to cool webinars, and an online learning portal called C2C-U where I participated in a policy competition, and even therapy sessions.
“Since I’m a rising senior and have the opportunity to take part in C2C next year, COVID hasn’t hurt my career plans or academic future. However, it has exacerbated certain difficulties. For example, I haven’t had power or wifi in a week due to a tropical storm that hit the East coast, but instead of heading to a library to do work, I’m forced to sit in a Dunkin’ parking lot to connect to their free Wifi. Of course, only time will tell what the true academic impact will be. I’m terrified of having to be evacuated from school after one or two months and forced to finish out my senior year virtually.“
Brianna Stonick and Edgar Vazquez
College to Congress
College to Congress is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a more inclusive and effective Congress by empowering the next generation of public servants. College to Congress was a recipient of the 2020 Renewal Award. You can learn more about C2C-U and The Intern Opportunity Fund at www.c2cuniversity.org.