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The People You Meet: White House Internship Program

Former White House Intern Leah Katz-Hernandez talks about her experiences. The deadline for applying for the Fall 2011 program is March 13.

Why am I pursuing a life in public service? What led me to the White House as a Fall Intern in 2010?

I became an intern not because I wanted that “gold” on my resume. I didn’t become an intern because I wanted to simply go through the illustrious gates of the White House. On the day I completed my internship application to the White House, I paused and thought to myself “I want to do this because I want to help.” 

I wanted to help people. I wanted to help people like me, who have a disability that significantly impacts their lifestyle. I wanted to help people from all levels of socio-economical backgrounds. I wanted to help all Americans. I wanted to be part of the solution, from my generation. To be the change in the world that I wanted to see happening.

As soon as I got the notification that I was accepted into the program, I swelled with pride and I couldn’t wait to start interning for the White House! When I finally came to the White House on my first day, I was amazed by the level of warmth, generosity, understanding, and passion that I saw in everybody. There are so many admirable people toiling away to do good work at the Executive Office of the President and I gained more and more respect every single day for those in public service.

I won’t gloss over anything. Working at the White House – in any part of the administration – is very demanding and substantive. The White House is always bustling with dedicated employees and your to-do list is always chock-full. I met so many people from such extraordinary backgrounds and gained new friends with each passing month. I was genuinely touched by how little my disability mattered at the White House.  In between massive projects and little tasks, I had steadily built up my portfolio of career experience, professional connections, and personal friends. At the end of the White House Internship Program Fall 2010, it was hard for me to leave. I felt like I was at exactly the right place at the right moment in my life. But my mind drifted back to the words that a staffer had told me during my time as an intern: “The White House should not be the end of your career path. It is the beginning.”

I encourage you to apply for the White House Internship Program. The application for the Fall 2011 program is live on the site right now. Time is running out, so go there today and start pulling your application materials together. You won’t regret it, I promise you.

Leah Katz-Hernandez was a Fall 2010 White House Intern in the Office of Public Engagement.