Jackie Jimenez, a 2010 graduate, served from September to December as an intern in the Office of Presidential Correspondence, where she listened to the stories and concerns of Americans and helped respond on behalf of President Obama. She also served on the White House Comment Line, where people leave messages for the President. That experience added fuel to a passion to serve that she says Moraine Valley ignited in her during her tenure at the college.
“Moraine Valley was really where my passion for service started. There is so much diversity and everyone has different opinions. The small classes really allowed for conversations to take place and learn about different experiences. There are so many clubs and programs at Moraine that collectively helped me develop professionally. The staff and teachers really care and believe in their students. The motivation that they provided really gave me the confidence to go out and pursue my dreams,” said Jimenez, who will complete her bachelor’s degree in Public Policy with a minor in Latino Studies at in March DePaul University.
It was a crowded road to the White House. Jimenez, of Bridgeview, was among 6,000 students who applied for the unpaid position in January 2013. She did not hear from the White House until July when she was notified that she had advanced to the second round. She then was notified that she was on a wait list, and finally in September she was told that she would be among 147 fall semester interns.
“The White House Internship Program is overall an amazing experience. They provide interns with so many opportunities from service projects to professional development workshops,” she said. “Aside from the internship program, being in D.C. was great. You meet so many different people from all over the country. Hardly anyone is actually from D.C., and everyone comes here because they are passionate about something. Sometimes we agreed on things and sometimes we did not, but listening to them and allowing myself to learn from them is a life skill that I will take with me wherever I go,” she said.
Of the many experiences she gained during her three-month program, there is one that stands out, and that’s when she met the President. “I thought it was just a photo session, which was still very exciting, but President Obama answered questions. He was very encouraging and thanked us for our service. Interns work hard every day, and I think sometimes we forgot where we were, but after hearing from the President, I took a step back and just thought, ‘Wow, I really am in D.C. as a White House intern.’ It was pretty amazing,” Jimenez said.
The experience also changed her as a person. “I feel a lot more independent. When I first arrived in D.C., I did not know a single person, not even the family that I would be living with. I was scared and nervous. There would be times when I thought, ‘What am I doing here? How did I ever get picked to be a White House intern?’ I still had moments when I doubted myself, but I met and spoke with so many people who had those same feelings. In those three months I grew more confident in myself and in my work,” she said.
The internship experience has not put her on the path to a career in politics—at least not for the immediate future—but it opened her eyes to different ways of getting there. “I want to help students develop professionally just like the staff at Moraine helped me. I believe that all students have the potential to do amazing things, and the White House Internship Program showed me just how much young people can accomplish when they have people motivating and encouraging them. I am still not sure how to get to where I want to be, but I have learned to not limit myself and to be open to change,” Jimenez said.
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