The Last Week – Ben Schuster

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

This past week has been one of my busiest this summer. A lot has happened: it was my last week in my congressional office, my cohort completed our group volunteering, and I said goodbye to the cohort because I was heading back home. This summer hasn’t been an easy journey, but I’m starting to understand my role in continuing political work and bringing my learnings from this summer back to my communities in Michigan and Ohio.

This week in the office, I worked on a number of topics relating to banking, aging, and federal grant access. Honestly, they’re topics I’ve never been too passionate about, but after seeing firsthand their effect on people – Alabamians, especially – my perspective has changed. For example, people have real concerns about the future of our financial system, particularly in the wake of Facebook’s emerging support for a new digital currency, Libra, and the company’s track record with data security. Simultaneously, senior citizens across Alabama and the nation have been plagued with robocall fraud, leading many to bankruptcy. Finally, there is a real question of access to federal grants among those in Alabama, as it is the fifth most federally dependent state in the country. At the end of the day, I’m learning that policies are personal for many people.

A photo of a senate chamber

On Tuesday, the office interns and I sat down with the Senator and reflected on our favorite projects throughout the summer. On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to brief him going into committee, and on Thursday, I said goodbye to some of the most amazing, passionate, and authentic people I’ve ever met. Working for Senator Doug Jones has been an incredible experience and I’m looking forward to seeing all of the amazing work the office continues to do from the outside. I’ll miss working in the office, but I know it’s in great hands.

A photo of the plaque outside Senator Doug Jones Office

The hardest part by far has been saying goodbye to the Victory Institute family. Nothing really prepared me for that, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to understand the real impact this cohort has had on me. I’m someone who overthinks things sometimes, but when it comes to life experiences like this, I need time to reflect. The 11 other members of the cohort have shown me a side of the LGBTQ+ community I’m not sure I’ll ever see again in my life, and for that, I am truly grateful. Being surrounded by a community that is unapologetically itself has made me more thoughtful and accepting of myself and also of diversity, in all of its forms.

My last week was amazing and I’d like to thank all of Victory Institute for an amazing eight weeks. You’ve really shaped us into the future and I’ll never forget that.