When I hopped on a plane departing from Reagan National Airport in December 2013, I knew I wasn't leaving D.C. for the final time. After spending a semester studying and interning in the District through the Lutheran College Washington Semester, I was confident that I wanted to return to Washington at some point, but I knew figuring out my return would be a long row to hoe. It's funny how things work out. By the grace of God, the opportunity to take part in the inaugural CAPS Fellows Program as the Public Policy and Advocacy Fellow here at LSA presented itself to me, and here I am – back in the District of Columbia.
Let me interject by saying my experience to the world of public policy was very limited prior to this summer. My fields of study at Valpo are primarily communication and theology, so I was nervous at the prospects of navigating uncharted waters this summer. Regardless, I recognized an amazing opportunity to "expand my portfolio" and get great experience in a new area – advocacy and policy, specifically relating to health and human service provision.
Even with a lack of experience in the policy world, the opportunity to take part in the work of a social ministry organization liked LSA was something I jumped at. My experiences at Valpo have cultivated in me a passion for seeing God's work done in the world – a passion for caring for the least of these (Matthew 25:40), speaking up for the voiceless (Proverbs 31:8-9), giving generously (Deuteronomy 15:10) and in everything, being involved in work which reflected the character of God (Psalm 68:4-5). LSA appeared, and has proven to be, an organization involved in such work.
In my first several weeks as the policy intern, I have been able to take advantage of LSA's unique position by "sitting at multiple tables" in the D.C. world. In fact, on my very first day, I attended meetings at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) with LSA's Disability Network (LSA-DN) members, where I quickly learned that learning to speak the language of acronyms would be helpful for this internship. My first week also included a quarterly LSA staff meeting and a visit to one of LSA's local members, Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (LSS-NCA), to learn more about their programs and services.
The main project I have worked on thus far involves an analysis of LSA's social media advocacy efforts, evaluating the current presence and researching best practices from similar organizations in their use of social media for advocacy purposes. Another part of my internship responsibilities includes attending legislative briefings, Congressional hearings, and other meetings on behalf of LSA.
A few of these meetings from the first few weeks particularly stand out. Recently, fellow CAPS fellow Caleb Rollins (how about that phrasing?), and I attended a White House briefing on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for Faith and Other-Community Based Organizations, where White House and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials thanked leaders for their work in educating and enrolling people in Health Insurance Marketplaces across the country. I recently attended a House Budget Committee (chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan) hearing on the "War on Poverty" several weeks ago. And just this past Wednesday, I attended a briefing hosted by a coalition called Advocates For Families First, who recently released their first public policy agenda with legislative recommendations for adoptive, kinship, and foster care policies.
Needless to say, the first part of the internship has been a whirlwind and each day is a learning experience in itself. I can also say that my internship experience the second time around has been quite different from the first. Making the switch from the government side to the non-profit world has given me a different perspective on the D.C. arena and the challenges that come with non-profit work. Can't wait to see what the coming weeks will hold!
The week of Independence Day was the busiest yet of my time as the development intern at Lutheran Services in America. Maybe it just seems like I was busier because I was working when apparently half of DC left early for the holiday weekend. But I think it has more to do with the many different projects I am supporting.
I have worked on forming the criteria and marketing plan for our new Associate Membership since I started at LSA. This process is coming along with the help of some others here at LSA, but we still need to polish the plan before presenting it to the Board in August. I've also started poring over the donation records of LSA for the past 4 years to try and find opportunities to expand giving. It's nothing terribly exciting unless you're like me and you find donor trends as interesting as people watching on the National Mall. I also have the chance to help find restaurant options for LSA's Disability Network (LSA-DN) meeting in Columbus, OH, coming up in August. It is only a small piece of the event planning, but I am a big fan of food, so I am happy to help. And then there's the various meetings I attend on topics ranging from project management software to national youth gatherings that keep the day even busier.
I wouldn't have it any other way though. I bet I get to do more meaningful work than most of the interns I share a crammed Metro car with every morning. Not that taking your Congressman's dog out for a bathroom break doesn't serve a purpose, it just doesn't seem very fulfilling. At LSA I have the opportunity to work with amazing people every single day. We work hard, we have fun, but most importantly we serve God and others through all of our work. This is what makes the work here at LSA so fulfilling and all of the busyness worth it. And the view of the Capitol building through my window isn't half bad either.