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Intern Essays: Why I'm At ADA

Posted by Will Rice (will) on Aug 05 2011 at 1:59 PM
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As a college student, I came to intern with Americans for Democratic Action with the intention of learning the ins and outs of the legislative process.

A tall order for one summer, I know, but the behavior of legislators has always interested me. Part of this behavior is their legislative interactions with non-profits such as ADA. I did not realize the influence a non-profit organization could have until I attended the monthly Congressional briefing of ADA’s Education Fund in June, a session focused on  youth unemployment. As a well-informed panel addressed the crisis of joblessness in young America, I sat in a room packed with attentive congressional aides and other potentially powerful people. It was great to a see a non-profit organization such as ADA command so much attention from those working on the Hill.

In an era of big money politics, it is good to know that a group of people organized as a non-profit can still compete for access to our most influential politicians. This was very comforting to learn considering many have the notion that financial influence dominates Beltway politics.  Perhaps it does, but organizations such as ADA gives a voice to the interests of progressives who may not be affluent.

Yes, maybe I am sounding like an overly optimistic college student but the ability of ADA to be outspoken and bring important issues to the forefront of the American public is inspiring and reassuring. We as a people have so many different ideas and views it is at times difficult to mobilize groups towards a common goal, yet what I have learned from my time here is that everyone has issues that are important to them.  It’s by wielding that passion in a unified manner that we effect positive change.


A December 2010 graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College with a double bachelor’s degree in sociology and educational studies, I think I may have entered the U.S. job market at precisely  the wrong time.  That’s one reason I’m glad to be interning at ADA.

The month of my graduation, the national unemployment rate for 20 to 24-year-olds was 15.3 percent.  After four months of job searching, I was hired in May as a part time swimming instructor, working 9-14 hours a week.  (As my status changed from unemployed to underemployed, the national jobless rate for my age group also improved slightly, to 14.7 percent.) However, nine hours a week is simply not enough; the “headline” unemployment figures also do not factor in part-time workers like me who want to work full time. 

While continuing my job search in this unrelentingly dismal market, a bright spot of this year  has been my internship at Americans for Democratic Action.  While I am not getting paid, I am “learning how to work.”  I have improved my computer, organizational, and communications skills, have become a published author in ADA Today, and did key research for the  2010 Congressional Voting Record.  I believe I have a leg up on some of my friends who do not have an internship with such a well-known organization.  But I’m still on the hunt for that elusive full time job.


Before I’d even found a summer internship in Washington, I’d bought my plane ticket, reserved housing and started packing my bags.

I was going to the nation’s capital as part of a college internship, one that guided its participants through the application process but did not guarantee them placement at an organization. Knowing I did not want to intern on Capitol Hill, I had applied to several progressive non-profits and advocacy groups in hopes of securing an internship in a legislative affairs department.

I came to ADA late in the process. Seeing an online reference to a Congressional “Liberal Quotient”, I discovered the organization behind this venerable legislative scoring system was Americans for Democratic Action.  Though I’d never heard of ADA, I quickly discovered its progressive values aligned with mine and I eagerly called to see if they were still accepting applications for summer interns.

I could have worked elsewhere during my first summer in D.C., but chose ADA because of its commitment to offering their interns challenging duties. The rigorous application process assured me I would not be expected to simply make coffee and answer telephones, but instead produce meaningful work.

Happily, my instinct was correct. Not only am I responsible for several important Education Fund programs and projects, but I also have the freedom to research other topics and issues I care about. I know the skills and experiences I gain this summer will greatly assist me in any future career.

Atanu Chakravarty is a junior at Dennison University. Billy Astrove is a recent graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College. Kate Bukowski is a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.