Helping and learning at the DNC
When organizing one of the two major political events of the year, you need all the help you can get.
Since it was announced that Philly would host the Democratic National Convention (DNC), the DNC Committee (DNCC) has been working tirelessly to put together an event that will bring together the leaders and delegates of the Democratic Party.
It is in this endeavor that the DNCC staff plays a key role, and interns are an essential part of the team.
Lara Hughes, 32, traveled all the way from Hawaii to Philadelphia just to be part of the DNCC.
“To me this election is one of the most historic and it’s really important especially seeing as there could possibly be a woman president and for me, as a woman, that’s really important,” said Hughes. “It’s just something that I feel very passionate about and that I wanted to be a part of.”
She works in the committee’s department of finance and administration, but also helps with volunteer coordination. The DNCC is expecting more than 6,000 volunteers.
Hughes is one of the 53 interns who were selected out of a list of 300 applicants from all over the country. Another is McDaniel Jeantus, 20, who came from New Jersey.
Jeantus explained that he became interested in participating in student leadership and political advocacy work when he was in high school. According to him, this experience offered him the opportunity to connect with community leaders, such as the CEO of the DNCC, Rev. Leah Daughtry.
“I got wind of this opportunity and I wanted to try to intern here so that I can get more experience in terms of government,” he said. “So when I get back to school and I get more involved in the student government I can have more understanding to how a small committee is in relation to a larger [volunteer] community.”
Another intern who saw this opportunity as an amazing experience in the development of her career is 20-year-old Melissa Gallardo. She came from Puerto Rico to be a part of the communication department.
“My concentration is international business and last semester I worked at the National Hispanic Caucus, so it was my first time working with Public Policy and I developed an interest,” said Gallardo. “By working directly in the convention it will be like a perfect experience for me to grow in the political arena.”
They all work between 20 and 30 hours per week — Hughes said she works around 40. All of them are involved in different community activities, such as “Volunteer Day” at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Karabots Pediatric Care Center in West Philadelphia or an event with local children at YMCA.
“They are part of the staff, they are being brought into staff meetings and they are been given substantive work,” said Juan Pachon, spokesperson for the DNCC. “They are managing thousands of volunteers, that’s not an easy task.”
The idea of the program is to show them how a political campaign works, but also to help them in the development of their leadership skills through mentorship and networking activities with leaders like Daughtry.
But if you ask these young interns what people can expect from the DNC they all agree: It’s inclusion.
“I think that’s a fact and that’s why I am a proud democrat and I can be seen participating in the youth league initiatives,” said Jeantus.
Diversity has been number one priority for Daughtry since the announcement of the DNC.
“Our internship program is also a very good reflexion of the staff that we have here. It’s a really really good diversity mix,” said Hannah Botelho, one of the coordinators of the program.
According to Botelho, the ratio of men to women in the program is 40-60 and around 50 percent of the interns are African American, Latino and Asian.
Jeantus, Hughes and Gallardo agree that they have enjoyed opportunity.
“I absolutely love it. This has been one of the best experience in my life,” said Hughes.