Balancing Acts: 2024 Wolanin Intern and Mother of Four Recalls Her Journey to Capitol Hill 

Thomas R. Wolanin intern, Ni’Aisha Banks on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.

I applied for the Thomas R. Wolanin Congressional Internship because of my deep interest in policy issues affecting working families and my desire to gain firsthand experience in the legislative process. The internship provided a unique opportunity to work directly on education policy under the guidance of experienced congressional staff. I was eager to contribute to meaningful policy discussions and understand how federal policies impact education nationally. 

Going into the internship, I anticipated a fast-paced environment where I could apply my academic knowledge to real-world policy work. I looked forward to gaining insights into legislative operations, enhancing my research and analytical skills, and building a professional network in the policy sphere. Additionally, I was excited to learn about the intersection of education policy with other key policy areas. 

During my internship, one of the most memorable moments was preparing for and attending a committee hearing on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs. Witnessing lawmakers debate critical issues impacting students and programs nationwide was an eye-opening experience. The internship aligned perfectly with my academic and career goals in public administration and education policy. It provided hands-on experience in legislative research, policy analysis, and constituent outreach, complementing my coursework. The exposure to federal policymaking further solidified my aspirations to pursue a career in education policy advocacy and public service. As a result, I secured my current position as a staff assistant in the U.S. House of Representatives and later applied to an education policy and leadership master’s in education program. 

The Council invites applicants for the 2025 Thomas R. Wolanin Congressional Internship. The deadline to apply is Friday, August 30, 2024.

A typical day as a congressional intern involved attending hearings, markups, and briefings, conducting legislative research, drafting memos and constituent correspondence, and assisting with administrative duties. I also had the opportunity to participate in staff meetings and collaborate with fellow interns on special projects. These responsibilities required attention to detail, strong organizational skills, and the ability to multitask effectively. 

The internship significantly enhanced my understanding of the federal policymaking process. I gained firsthand experience tracking legislation, analyzing policy proposals, and observing how constituent feedback informs legislative decisions. Engaging with legislative staff and policymakers provided valuable insights into the complexities of policymaking and the importance of advocacy in advancing policy priorities. 

Balancing the demands of parenting with the rigorous demands of the internship was a notable challenge. As a mother of four elementary-aged children, I anticipated unique challenges like those I faced while pursuing my education. However, the incredible support system from the Council for Opportunity in Education staff and my colleagues at the House Education and Workforce Committee played a crucial role in navigating these challenges effectively. Their understanding and assistance ensured that I could fulfill my internship responsibilities while addressing my family’s needs, highlighting the importance of a supportive community. 

The positive outcome of this experience fueled my commitment to advocating for policies that support individuals balancing educational and family responsibilities. The TRIO Student Support Services program at Georgia Southern University played a pivotal role in preparing me for success in the internship and beyond by equipping me with essential academic support, leadership skills, and a strong sense of resilience. This journey has instilled in me the confidence to pursue my goals and navigate unfamiliar environments with determination. 

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