Being a Part of the Change I Want to See

In high school, AP Government and Politics wasn’t my favorite class. I found myself confused about topics like gerrymandering and how state governments function. However, after changing my major from Biology to Political Science (something I never thought I’d do), and transferring to Penn State Harrisburg, I found myself fascinated with government and politics. I enjoyed my classes and what I was learning, but it was my time at Common Cause Pennsylvania that allowed me to immerse myself in an exciting world that I didn’t always see myself in. Interning with Common Cause Pennsylvania gave me the opportunity to participate in Election Protection, familiarize myself with the State Capitol, and learn about issues that greatly affect underrepresented groups and minorities. This internship has prepared me for my journey ahead and I couldn’t be more thankful for being a part of a team that fights for people’s rights, and justice.

I began my internship in October of 2018. The midterm elections were coming up on November 6, so this was a hectic time for Pennsylvania. Immediately I was put into the loop and was given tasks to start preparing for Election Day. Considering I had never done anything like this before, it was new and exciting to be a part of an election, especially one like this. As a newbie, I had a lot of questions about what to do, but the staff never turned me away and walked me through whatever I needed help with. Not only was I becoming a part of something bigger than myself, but I was also starting to expand and strengthen my support system in Pennsylvania through my coworkers.

Being a part of Election Protection was rewarding because I helped prepare for an eventful Election Day. I contacted residents who signed up to be poll monitors and I assigned them to their polling location. I answered their questions and kept in touch with them throughout Election Day to make sure they were set for their shift. In 2018, we partnered with Vote Together to throw some community celebration events to celebrate Election Day. After the election, I followed up with those who participated in these events to get their feedback. Many of them were overjoyed with how things played out, which was fantastic to hear. In addition to being a part of Election Protection in 2018, I was also a part of Election Protection in 2020. This experience was rewarding in many different ways. I arranged the shifts for when and where poll workers would work, I helped put together the materials they would need, I was there to answer their questions and collect their feedback, and I got to witness the behind-the-scenes of Election Day preparation. I gained so much knowledge and experience from Election Protection.

One of my most memorable recollections was during Halloween of 2018. With the midterm elections coming up, it was a stressful time for many. So, when a coworker and I were tasked with filling up tons of candy bags to hand to members of the PA Legislature, I was thrilled to do this. Performing this task gave me the chance to fully see the Capitol, a beautiful and spectacular place. Trick or treating with our legislative agenda in 2018 brought joy to a lot of workers when I gave them a candy bag, and brought joy to me, too. In a time where many were on edge due to the elections, trick or treating with those in the Capitol added a bit of fun to the mix, which is needed every once in a while.

Working for Common Cause has also opened me up to a whole new world of issues that affect underrepresented populations and minorities. Prison-based gerrymandering and undercounted populations in the Census are only two of the problems I focused on. I was able to take my on the job experience and apply it in the classroom, which illustrates the significance of having an internship that correlates to your classes and what you’re passionate about. After learning about prison-based gerrymandering, I couldn’t walk away from it. I felt strongly about this topic because of how much it negatively impacts our society, and how little it is acknowledged. I wrote a research paper on prison-based gerrymandering that was selected for publication and I hope to educate readers on how this issue disrupts our democracy. My internship with Common Cause brought my textbook knowledge to life and has made me much more aware of the systemic issues facing our country.

My time at Common Cause Pennsylvania has been enriching. I’ve engaged in experiential learning and learned so much about the way our country functions. From preparing for elections to exploring the Capitol to being educated about matters that bring unfavorable consequences, my internship with Common Cause will always be one of my favorite parts of my college career, and I am grateful for having spent nearly two years here. The team at Common Cause was a pleasure to work with and I will always appreciate the guidance and opportunities they gave me.

This internship has aided in my growth and academic success. I was inducted into Pi Sigma Alpha, I was awarded the Robert J. Bresler and Carol R. Nechemias Outstanding Political Science Senior Award, I was chosen as the Spring 2020 student marshal for the School of Public Affairs, I graduated magna cum laude, and I plan on attending law school starting fall 2020. I know that because of this internship, I am more knowledgeable and prepared for my journey ahead.

I would recommend that all college students participate in an internship. My drive to make change has only strengthened because of what I have gained by working with Common Cause. I would encourage everyone to participate in this democracy–go out and vote, volunteer to be a poll monitor, take the time to educate yourself on the system and how it operates. We, the citizens of this country, are responsible for bringing change, and through actively participating and ensuring everyone is heard, we can build a stronger democracy.