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Learning Civics On The Job

For the past four years, young adults with developmental disabilities have enjoyed the opportunity to work on Capitol Hill as Congressional interns. The program was started by Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS), whose son has Fragile X, in collabration with George Mason University's Mason LIFE program. Some 50 interns, of whom 40 percent have autism, have since participated. Interns Samantha Perez and Nicholas Moore share their experiences.

Samatha Perez

Hi, my name is Samantha Perez. I am a Mason Life student at George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia. This is my fourth-year and I’m interning at Capitol Hill. 

Working at Capitol Hill makes me feel nervous because I am working in important offices that help our country. After four internships, I am excited to work with the different congressional offices. I am no longer as nervous because I feel it is an honor to work with all the state offices. And everyone is very nice.

I start my morning by eating breakfast, getting dressed in my business suit and waiting for my ride to Capitol Hill.  I work in the Ohio Congressional office this semester. My work sometimes begins by delivering different things to other offices. I organize office supplies, papers and files. I also help with the mail. I eat lunch at the cafeteria and they have everything that you like to eat.  When I am done with lunch, I go to the New Mexico Congressional office. I do more office work and help out wherever I can. 

The internship has taught me about how our government works. I know how to help out wherever I can. This job has taught me how to work in an office.  My favorite part about working at Capitol Hill is working with the staff members and meeting the Members of Congress.

Nicholas Moore

My name is Nicholas Moore. I am doing my third rotation as an intern at the Capitol. During my first internship, I was not happy about it. I never expected to work during my school year and found it very upsetting. Further, I did not want any traces of my identity left because I also worried that I would become famous. I now know that is not the case.   

I have grown accustomed to working at the Capitol and I’m enjoying my work very much. I don’t even mind having traces of my identity left, such as the photographs I have had taken with my employers and my fellow interns. I currently work for Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana and have interned for Senator Al Franken from Minnesota, Representative Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, and Representative Jackie Speier of California.   

My job responsibilities include running errands in Cannon, Longworth, and Rayburn, where I spend most of my time. I deliver the American Flag to the appropriate offices when instructed, and do clerical duties, such as filing and gathering supplies. I also put together folders that contain brochures, informational packets, and mouse pads. I even sort information about the Representatives and Senators pertaining to their birthdate, committees, and party affiliation. I keep the copiers loaded with paper and also do some shredding.

My favorite thing about working on the Hill is being able to visit different offices and meet new people. I also enjoy the exercise when walking to the various buildings. My job has taught me to use my time efficiently and has prepared me for a full day’s work, until the government shutdown and I was only able to work a half a day. My confidence has grown by overcoming my fear of being ‘famous’ and learning to interact with persons outside my comfort zone. In Jackie Speier’s office, there was a yellow lab named Prince. I loved being able to share my knowledge of animals and information about my sister’s dog, Kylee.

I have learned that it is an honor to be chosen to work at the Capitol, the heart of our country, where the will of the people is taken to consideration, and hopefully into law. I appreciate these experiences and hope I have been a help to the Senators and Representatives. 

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.