By Sean Schrader
National Intern Day falls on July 29 this year. It’s a time for recognition of the important work that interns do, and for me, a time of reflection of the experiences that I have had while working in the Office of Congressman Charlie Crist – our U.S. Congressman for Florida’s 13th District that encompasses St. Petersburg to Clearwater.
Up until a few years ago I would not have seen myself working in a congressional office as I have always been more oriented towards my local community. I’ve enjoyed working with local businesses, civic advocacy groups and nonprofit organizations. However, in the fall of 2019 and while starting classes at USFSP, I had the opportunity to join as an intern working for Congressman Crist at his downtown St. Petersburg office.
I wasn’t sure about being qualified for the position, but the short commute to work was a big selling point. The first day I began in Friday, August 30th, all eyes were on Hurricane Dorian and the impacts it would bring to the Florida coast. Although it looked as if Tampa Bay would remain largely in the clear, my first project in the office was reviewing storm preparedness documents and ensuring they were up to date with the latest information. Although I knew this was not a typical workday as an intern, it certainly was an interesting and unforgettable first day in the office.
Things became a lot calmer when I returned the following week, enabling me to focus on daily intern tasks and projects. A large component of my internship involved answering phone calls from constituents, whether it be providing guidance for an issue they were experiencing, recording their thoughts on a current matter or connecting them with their caseworker.
While in the office, I would also work on drafting congressional correspondence. This was very exciting, as there were many different letters to draft that helped me gain insight into what was taking place throughout the district. I also had the opportunity to see Congressman Crist in the office, and whether it was for a meeting, an interview or a special event, the office was always busy.
As COVID-19 began to emerge in spring of 2020, I took on a new role in the office, serving as an Assistant Constituent Advocate, helping constituents in receiving their stimulus payments. This was very rewarding work, as these funds helped constituents with essential needs such as buying food, paying utility bills and covering transportation costs. Sadly, in the fall of 2020, I left the Congressman’s office to focus exclusively on my studies, but I knew I still wanted to assist constituents throughout the district.
As part of my enrollment in the business program in the Kate Tiedemann College of Business at USF, I learned that I could complete an internship for class credit. That enabled me to enjoy the opportunity of returning to Congressman Crist’s office for the summer of 2021. Like in 2019-2020, my tasks have been largely based upon constituent service by providing resources on the phone, working to resolve an issue on their behalf with a federal agency or drafting congressional correspondence. I believe it is all necessary and important work.
I am not sure what career path I would like to take just yet, but this internship has helped me realize that I want to continue giving back and making a positive difference in the community. In terms of how this internship applies to my business management degree path at USF, I have learned that teamwork is incredibly important to ensure the Congressman’s office runs smoothly, as staffers must balance legislative work, constituent outreach, casework, communications and other priorities all at one time.
As August 2021 quickly approaches, it will mark two years on and off that I have interned with Congressman Crist. Congressman Charlie Crist wears a yellow bracelet to remind him to live by the Golden Rule – the principle of treating others as one wants to be treated. I’ve been very fortunate to work for a Member of Congress who focuses on doing what is right for the people, and has helped me to ensure I also live by the Golden Rule.
Feature photo – Sean Schrader; background by DWilliam on Pixabay