Thomas R. Wolanin Congressional Internship

The paid Thomas R. Wolanin Congressional Internship provides first-generation and low-income college graduates of a TRIO program the opportunity to observe and participate first-hand in the federal policymaking process through an experience on Capitol Hill.


Are you ready to embark on a transformative experience that combines education, politics, and hands-on learning in the heart of the nation’s capital?

The Thomas R. Wolanin Semester in Washington Congressional Internship is an unparalleled opportunity for talented and passionate TRIO students to immerse themselves in the exciting world of politics and policy-making. This internship program provides an extraordinary chance to work closely with members of Congress, engage in legislative activities, and gain valuable insights into the functioning of our nation’s government.

  • Please see the announcement for more information about the qualifications, stipend, and timing of the internship.

With questions, please contact Angela Holley via e-mail or phone at (202) 347-7430.

Key Program Highlights

The Thomas R. Wolanin Congressional Internship provides individuals who are in the first generation of their families to graduate from college with an opportunity to observe the federal policy-making process first-hand and to participate in that process.

Researching legislation; attending and summarizing meetings, briefings, and hearings; drafting talking points and memos; and supporting Congressional staff.

A current or former staff member of a TRIO program must nominate each candidate for the Wolanin internship. In addition to the application form, the candidate must submit a letter explaining their interest in policy and the internship, undergraduate transcripts, a resume, and a letter of support from a faculty member not associated with the TRIO program.
Ni’Aisha Banks

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

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. 
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Being on the Other End of Advocacy: 2023 Wolanin Intern Cristalina Ramirez Reflects on Capitol Hill Experience

Discover the inspiring journey of Cristalina Ramirez, a TRIO Student Support Services alum, during her impactful 2023 Thomas R. Wolanin Congressional Internship on Capitol Hill. From organizing correspondence to attending hearings, her experience alongside Rep. Pramila Jayapal has deepened her understanding of advocacy and effective communication. Coming from a background of hard work and dedication, Ramirez’s aspirations in wildlife conservation and government affairs have been fueled by this opportunity. Explore her journey from a first-generation student in rural Washington to a dedicated advocate and academic advisor, showcasing the power of pursuing dreams and making a difference.
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Holly Hexter

What the Wolanin Internship Did for Its First Intern, Brandy Dailey

“When I was in D.C. and learning to research issues on a national scale, I picked up on skills I didn’t even know I was lacking. When the job came up, I instantly applied. [In my current job] They’ve let me take the initiative to establish a legislative review committee working with state legislators in both parties to research policy issues that impact domestic violence in families. [The organization is} very trauma-informed and based on the principle of empowerment. I’m also mentoring students looking for internship opportunities, including a few law students, and giving them a different perspective on their career paths. As a first-gen student, I never expected to graduate from college, let alone have college students knocking on my door.”
Read More
Holly Hexter

How Thomas R. Wolanin Intern Matt Tessema is “Becoming a Voice for the Underrepresented”

The TRIO alumnus is “ready to pay it forward” after receiving support to enter and graduate from college and sees his congressional internship as an important stepping stone. He’s now working on the House Education and Labor Committee. “I wanted an experience on the Hill. What I want to do with my law degree in the future aligns with being a voice for underrepresented people. And I always thought of policy or the legislative process as an avenue for me to do that. Coming here as a low-income, first-generation student — usually, these places on the Hill are not for people who come from backgrounds like mine,” Tessema says. The son of Ethiopian immigrants took part in Student Support Services at VCU. He’s applying to law school but now sees his aspirations differently. The significant role of legislative aides in shaping public policy impressed him.
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COE will invite applications for these additional opportunities soon.

COE has seasonal student opportunities for TRIO high school and undergraduate students and recent TRIO graduates. Get notified when COE seeks future cohorts for the opportunities below.


Each summer, COE hosts more than 150 TRIO high school student delegates from Upward Bound, Upward Bound Math-Science and Talent Search programs across the United States and territories to participate in a rigorous 6-day leadership experience in Washington, D.C. During the Leadership Congress, the delegates sleep, study, and dine on the campus of American University.  In addition to meeting their Senators and Representatives on Capitol Hill, delegates participate in community service projects, conflict resolution workshops, and spend much of the program engaged in a Mock Congress. This requires students to research critical policy issues, draft legislation, and debate their peers with their assigned team.

A paid internship opportunity lasting four to six months is awarded each year to a graduating senior or recent college graduate who has participated in a federal TRIO program. The program includes an internship in a Congressional office preceded by several weeks in COE’s Washington, DC office. The internship is named for the late Thomas R. Wolanin, former staff director of the Subcommittee on Post- Secondary Education in the U.S. House of Representatives, a champion of access and affordability in postsecondary education, and a committed advocate for first-generation students.

The Keith Sherin Global Leaders Program was founded with the notion that all college students should have access to international experiences. The program supports the study of TRIO college students with demonstrated leadership skills in a three-to-four-week program. Since 2000, more than 350 low-income, first-generation college students and students with disabilities have participated in COE-sponsored short-term and semester study abroad programs in Great Britain, Mexico, the Netherlands, South Africa, and Spain.

Through the Keith Sherin Global Leaders Washington Semester Program, one high-achieving TRIO college student is selected each semester and supported with tuition, housing, and a small living stipend. The Washington, D.C. public policy program includes a semester of study at Marquette University’s Les Aspin Center and an internship placement in a Congressional office.

COE’s TRIO Career Development Program (TCDP) provides TRIO SSS and McNair students with access to competitive paid internships and jobs. TCDP builds professional skills, supports development through mentoring, provides connections to careers with top employers, and helps maximize their work experience. Students receive personalized mentoring and tools to develop and execute their career plans. After building valuable relationships, these students will be prepared to compete for highly sought-after positions with various public and private sector partners.

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