The third class of HBCU Bi-Partisan Congressional Internship program interns traveled to Washington, D.C. this week to begin a summer internship aimed at increasing diversity and engagement on Capitol Hill vis-à-vis HBCUs.
Launched in 2016, the internship looks to address the lack of diversity among congressional staff. A recent study found that African-Americans make up less than 1 percent of top Senate staffers, despite representing 13 percent of the U.S. population.
Interns in the program will spend a four-week period in the offices of both a Republican and a Democrat. Interns will also have the opportunity to meet with key players on Capitol Hill, including members of Congress and senior staff. They also will have to meet performance standards that ensure a quality educational experience, including attending hearings and briefings, writing letters, completing projects and writing an essay about their time and what they learned.
The initiative was started by U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, a Republican, and U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, a Democrat, both of North Carolina.
Earlier this year, Vashti Hinton, a participant from the inaugural 2016 class, was the first to be hired as a full-time staff member on Capitol Hill. Hinton works for U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y.
“Congresswoman Adams and I started this initiative to increase diversity and HBCU engagement on Capitol Hill, while creating opportunities and valuable job-training for the students of our nation’s more than 100 HBCUs,” Walker said. “Working together for the betterment of our students, this internship program has yielded success, with one of the program’s first participants, Vashti, gaining employment in a congressional office after graduating. I am thrilled to have Tony and Jameia spending time in our office and Adams’s office this summer, and look forward to continuing advocating on behalf of the HBCU community.”
Added Adams: “This third class of HBCU interns is a testament to our commitment to fighting for equal opportunity and fixing the diversity problem on Capitol Hill,” she said.“HBCUs contribute more than $14 billion dollars annually to our economy and have provided pathways of opportunity for millions of Americans from varied backgrounds. These institutions are essential to workforce diversity, especially here in Washington. We should all be working to ensure that their students and their graduates have access to Capitol Hill. We will not produce policies that address the issues impacting all Americans if we don’t have diverse policymakers. This internship is a necessary step to ensuring Congress looks like the people it serves.”
This summer’s interns are Tony Watlington, Jr., a rising senior at North Carolina A&T State University, and Jameia Booker, a rising senior at Johnson C. Smith University.
Watlington is an economics major and a Student Government Association senator. Booker is a criminology major and pre-law minor who is serving as student body president during the 2018-2019 school year. Both are interested in attending law school following graduation.