On May 29th, 11 former foster youth boarded planes at different airports around the country. Their hearts were beating fast and their minds raced as they dreamt about the 9 weeks ahead. Many of them must have hesitated to even board the plane. It must have taken an incredible amount of faith to spend the summer away from home, living with a person they had never met, and working in an office they could barely find on a map. Even with all of this uncertainty, all 11 Congressional Foster Youth Interns arrived on CCAI’s doorstep and we were thrilled to welcome them to Washington.
Almost as soon as the interns arrived, we had them pack a weekend bag and head to Danville, PA for the annual retreat. Once arriving in Danville, I think the interns understood why after all of these years, we still return to such a small town in the middle of Pennsylvania. Danville is idyllic and although I have been there several times, I am still surprised at the town’s overabundance of smiles and waves.
This year was much like retreats in the past. We spent time getting to know one another, discussing what mark each intern wants to make while in DC, and what fears the interns are facing as they reflect on the upcoming two months. They arrived 100 W. Market Street in Danville as 11 different people and left as a one, united around the mission of making a difference for the hundreds of thousands of children in foster care.
After the retreat, we returned to Washington and began orientation. CCAI does all it can to make sure that the interns are prepared for their Congressional internships. In that vein, we planned several informative sessions like “Dress to Impress,” “Rules of the Road,” and “Safety First.” We had guest speakers including the Congressional Research Service who conducted a two-hour training tailored specifically for our interns and their interest in foster care policy. Additionally, we invited key Congressional staff, Administration staff, and foster care advocacy leaders for a welcome lunch to share tips on making the most of a Washington internship.
As the interns embarked on their first day of work yesterday, I cannot help but be a little envious of their time in Congress. I know that each of them will have a unique experience in Congress and it will inevitably shape their future for the better. I am still struck by the amount of courage it took for each of these young leaders to believe the voice on the other end of the phone guaranteeing a summer internship full of opportunity and excitement. Lucky for us, these interns did believe us and in my short time with them, I know their determination to succeed will make this a fantastic summer.