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New internship program opens the way to the halls of Congress for Bradley University students

J. Scott Applewhite

A new partnership between Bradley University and the Dirksen Congressional Center will provide students a fully-funded opportunity to intern in a congressional office.

That opens the door for students who otherwise may not be able to afford the expenses of an extended stay in the nation's capital.

Tiffany White is executive director of the Dirksen Congressional Center. She said a summer internship in Washington, D.C. can cost between $7,000 to $10,000.

"When I came to the Dirksen Center four years ago, I started thinking about what it might look like to have the Dirksen Center be involved in providing that type of opportunity for young people in our area," she said. "And I know that sort of separately, but simultaneously, other partners now involved in this initiative, we're having the same thoughts."

Brad McMillan at Bradley University's Institute for Principled Leadership was one of those partners. The two began brainstorming after student Melody Hampton told them about the difficulties of finding the money for her own summer internship on Capitol Hill.

That ultimately led to the establishment of the Michel-LaHood Summer Congressional Internship Program, funded through endowment created by former U.S. Rep. and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. It provides funding for up to three students a year to experience working in the office of a member of Congress.

"By giving each student that we select $7,000 for housing and living expenses, and six free credit hours of tuition, we are really opening the door to any Bradley student from any major to apply for this. And we're excited to see who who applies," McMillan said.

U.S. Representatives Robin Kelly, Darin LaHood, and Eric Sorensen have agreed to put the interns to work in their offices.

White said she believes the internship will be beneficial for participating students, regardless of whether they end up pursuing a career in politics or not.

"Those those core skills of listening and communicating and of being in a service minded attitude, I think, really formulate building blocks for success in a person's career, regardless of what that looks like," she said.

To learn more about the internship program, click here.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.