Giving Back – Lena Dreves

OUT ON THE HILL is the official blog of the Victory Congressional Interns. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of LGBTQ Victory Institute. Learn more about the internship at victoryinstitute.org/vci

Interning on Capitol Hill has been one of the most exhilarating opportunities of my professional life. The six weeks flew by, and before I knew it I had completed the Victory Congressional Internship. I grew my professional network, learned valuable skills, and grew to appreciate Democracy like never before. The Victory Institute gave me the chance to experience what had previously been impossible for me, and this inspires me to do the same for others.

Washington D.C. has always been an idealized place for me in my mind. I used to watch the theme of the House of Cards TV show, simply to see the beautiful lights of Washington D.C. at night. The TV show, The West Wing – gave me close up views of D.C. like I hadn’t seen before, and I always imagined myself in the scene. This summer was my first experience in Washington D.C., and in many ways, it was just as I had imagined. It was full of political rumors and secrets, cocktail parties and strategic campaign moves – however, it also was a place where the privileged and the wealthy were most likely to advance.

Headlines from The Hill such as, “Interning on Capitol Hill: Great opportunity for America’s wealthiest undergrads” or “Unpaid internships unfairly favor the wealthy” – are not surprising for the millions of students who hoped to get an Congressional Internship in D.C., only to realize that they could not afford it. Unless you already live in D.C., or come from a wealthy family, many students cannot afford to pay the costs of living in D.C. while simultaneously saving enough for tuition in the fall.

This was my experience. I applied to the Victory Congressional Internship in hopes that I could intern on Capitol Hill despite any financial situation I faced. Now at the end of the internship – I have reflected not only on the value of my experience, but also on those who didn’t get the same chances to have that experience. As I go out into the world, back to school, on to my first entry job, or perhaps onto a professional degree – I want to have the presence of mind to utilize what I have learned and the connections I have made, to give other underrepresented students the same chances. Whether this means on Capitol Hill or at my university, I am determined to remind myself of the motivations I hold and the support I was given to be successful. For me, success means, that one day I will be able to improve equality for all minorities in the field of policy and law – remembering that I was only able to be successful myself, because someone else held a similar goal.