Confessions of a Summer Intern: Passion Equals Action

Sarah & Friends

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.

US Department of Education
US Dept of Education

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.

US Capital Building

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

  1. Meet Sarah Suter
  2. Washington DC Is a Fantastic Place for an Internship

Other Summer Intern Confessions

Alysondra Milano

Gabby Fenzel

Erin Quist

Confessions of a Summer Intern: Washington DC Is a Fantastic Place for an Internship

Fourth of July in DC - Sarah Suter
Fourth of July in DC

The first month and a half of my internship experience has been amazing! I am continually learning new things and helping others to learn as well. My supervisors as well as other staff at the department are always so encouraging and open to my ideas. There are very few interns from D3 schools such as UW-Whitewater, in fact most interns are attendants of Harvard, Stanford, and Berkley. I was assigned to a team on a different floor of the department, and after doing a great deal of work with them they asked where I attended school. After hearing UW-Whitewater and learning more about it, they were shocked at the work quality and ethic that I had. Literally, they told me that there was not a single intern working on their floor that wasn’t from Harvard or Stanford and that they had pulled me from the Office of the Secretary to do this work because of my previous work quality. It really makes me feel great and proud of my education at UW-Whitewater!

The team and project I have been working on very much falls under the US Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation grant. I have been filing, entering, and redistributing applications for individuals interested in being peer reviewers for this grant process. The grant, in the end, will provide funding to schools that want to invest in their district to move forward for success. I sit in on important meetings and play a rather large role in these meetings because I am the one working behind the scenes, knowing the process and at what stage applications are at.

Sarah Suter's DC Internship - Lincoln Memorial
Sight Seeing – The Lincoln Memorial

Washington DC is a fantastic place for an internship. No matter how long you’ve been in the area working, there are always new things to do or places to see. I still spend weekends sight seeing with my new intern friends. The days can get quite hot, but that’s when a museum always makes for a great option. The one thing that I did venture into while here in DC was flying trapeze lessons. Yes it sounds crazy and quite circus-like, but it honestly is so much fun! A friend convinced me to go and I have gone twice since–I highly recommend it, even if you have a fear of heights like myself!

Sarah Suter on the Trapeze

The most exciting time so far this summer was most definitely the Fourth of July! What could be better than spending the Nation’s birthday near the capital? My friend from home came to visit for the weekend and we spent the day watching the parade, partaking in Fourth of July festivities, and ending the night to the most amazing fireworks I have ever seen!!

In case you missed it, read Sarah’s first post about her DC internship!