Well, my amazing and life changing internship has finally come to an end. Overall within my internship at the US Department of Education, I was able to work with many leaders in the field of education, and was thrilled when they placed me on a second team– the Early Learning team. My main supervisor, Jo Anderson, the Senior Advisor to the US Secretary of Education, recommended me to the Early Learning Initiative team due to my undergraduate major in Early Childhood Education. The Early Learning Initiative team works in collaboration with various program offices at ED and other Federal and State agencies.
I was coming in at a very exciting time for Early Learning, they had just received approval to go ahead with drafting the requirements for the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, which would provide a total of $500 million to states that eligible through the application process, those that are leading the way in early learning with ambitious and achievable plans for putting into action captivating comprehensive early learning education reform. (More information on the actual grant requirements and process can be found online.)
I was able to sit in on meetings that were led by Jacqueline Jones, the Senior Advisor on Early Learning to the Secretary of Education, Steven Hicks, Special Assistant on Early Learning, Jennifer Tschantz, Early Learning Program Analyst, and Katy Chapman, Confidential Assistant on Early Learning. Although Jacqueline was the Senior Advisor in the group, she was very open to ideas from others as well as myself. She wasn’t like other advisors I had seen in action – you had to personally approve every detail, yet asked others their opinions before she approved something herself. She knew the staff she was working with on such a personal level, not just their strengths and weaknesses, but how they would react to a certain topic and many times if they were upset or thinking about something else that day. It was a very admirable quality to see in a national leader.
In addition to her team, public opinion was very important to the Department of Education, so we had many mailing and online blog posting opportunities for comments and letters to be submitted for our viewing. My role was to synthesize these comments and figure out the topic for each comment or letter as well for Jacqueline and the others.
The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge is going to help many young children from hopefully more states than we like to think. In the end it will create models for schools and consistent programs that are positive and create healthy student growth and success that others can duplicate. They hope that this is only the first step in the funding that they will receive for Early Learning. Their leadership is in all the right places. These people have the heart, many of them serving as preschool teachers previously themselves. They are very admirable leaders. I am honored to have been able to work so closely with them and will have the work experiences and skills I have gained for life.
If you are passionate about something, go for it!
Read Sarah’s Internship Journey
Other Summer Intern Confessions