In 2012, I was honored to work on President Obama’s reelection campaign. Organizing for America prided itself on being based in neighborhoods instead of offices, a phenomenal switch from the traditional campaign format. I was an Organizing Fellow for the final months and I put every bit of energy I could into generating a productive and proactive neighborhood team. What started off as a 15 hour internship quickly evolved into a thirty hour per week internship. Add in high school, working at Senator Bill Nelson’s office and at a part time job, I was busy. I was the youngest member of my team by about 40 years, and I was leading it. To say the least, it was overwhelming. From the outside it seemed like I would not be able to connect with these people I had so little in common with, let alone persuade them to knock on 2,000 doors for the President.
A few months later, however, after late nights, early mornings, and too much coffee, I found myself tearing up on Election Day while saying goodbye to the volunteers that had challenged me and helped me realize my potential as a leader. The most gratifying event of the election was the day after the results came out when Annette, one of my volunteers, called just to tell me that I was the reason that she volunteered. She had stayed with the campaign just for me, the “out of place” teenager. I realized then that every phone call, 11:00 p.m. coffee run, and every second spent yelling at an online database was worth the sense of community that I, along with Annette and other volunteers, built during the campaign. This sense of community is what I believe politics can be and has been for me. Through my work at the US Senator’s office I found a small community of incredible women, working together to support Senator Nelson and the constituents in Florida. During my short spurt working in the state capitol for Senator Latvala, I quickly found an environment of other interns and legislative assistants working together to support the greater good of Florida. I have been incredibly proud of the environments that I’ve been able to integrate into and I look forward to working in more supportive and proactive political environments in the future.
Running Start’s Impact
After YWPL, I was chosen for a Department of State fellowship the summer I returned to America. The program chooses ten American students and fifty European students each year to study and debate transatlantic diplomacy and the European Union for the entire month of July at Wake Forest University. The program was thrilling; we discussed philosophy and diplomatic theories in the classroom and debated Montenegro’s economic future over dinner. The program was splendid but we were gifted numerous networking opportunities through the Department of State. Running Start taught me to involve myself, ask questions and connect with those people afterwards. So that’s what I did and have continued to do since then!
While interning on the Obama campaign I was able to use many of the people skills and fundraising skills I learned through Running Start to move my small part of the campaign forward. My senior year of high school I lived in Germany through a US Department of State scholarship which focuses on youth political leadership. The scholarship provided me the opportunity to compare American politics and American campaign styles against German politics and political campaigning. I am currently attending George Washington University on a Presidential Merit scholarship and majoring in Middle Eastern Studies and German. The coolest thing I have done during my first semester was conducting a private interview with US Ambassador James Jeffrey, the former ambassador to Iraq and an expert on ISIS. Ambassador Jeffrey spoke at a medium sized event at GW. After the event, I did exactly what Running Start told me to: so I introduced myself to Ambassador Jeffrey and thanked him for his time. A few days later I sent his press office an email to see if he might be willing to meet with me for a research project I was putting together. Later that week we met up to discuss my project and have been in contact since then. This is not the first time I’ve run into this situation but I believe this is a great example of the skill set that Running Start gave me. Running Start gave me the confidence to introduce myself and reach out to his office. For that, I am forever grateful.
Connect with Amber!
Facebook: http://facebook.com/aammmber I Twitter: @amberherrle I Instagram: @amberherrle