Young Alaskans shadow Murkowski on Capitol Hill

Recent high school graduates from throughout Alaska are working closely with U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski through the summer internship program, which lasts until August 4 and exposes the interns to the day-to-day life in a senator’s office. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski’s office)

From the outside, Capitol Hill seems like a hectic place this summer, but a group of ten recent Alaska high school graduates are experiencing it first hand as interns for U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski.

 

Through health care votes and targeted tweets from President Donald Trump, the interns in Murkowski’s office, which include Brian Dusek of Soldotna and Ronald Meehan of Kenai, have shadowed Murkowski and experienced the inner workings of a U.S. senate office.

“One of the greatest moments … we were in the senate gallery during the vote on heath care (on Tuesday),” Meehan said. “The Vice President was there, Senator McCain walked in to a standing ovation and gave a really powerful speech on what we need to do to make the senate more bipartisan. It was a very powerful experience.”

The group of ten interns are all recent high school graduates from schools throughout Alaska. They arrived in Washington D.C. on July 10 and will stay until August 4.

“I truly enjoy having these interns in my office every summer, as they bring such passion and joy to their work every day and are eager to learn the work of the Senate,” Murkowski said in a press release.

Throughout the summer, the interns get to work closely with Murkowski.

“There are four weeks and each week we work with a different part of her office,” Dusek said. “And then I get to shadow the senator everywhere she goes. We get to go to the meetings, see everything that we would be allowed to see. It’s really amazing.”

Throughout the month-long internship, the interns rotate through different responsibilities such as working with Murkowski’s communications department, or helping with the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which Murkowski chairs.

“I get to help them,” Meehan said. “Whether it’s gathering signatures or doing paperwork or legislative research.”

This group is the second of the summer to work with Murkowski, and is part of a longstanding tradition of summer interns.

“When I interned right after high school for Senator Ted Stevens, it was my first time east of the Seattle-Tacoma airport,” Murkowski said. “… I gained so much from my internship and I hope that this batch of interns have similar experiences.”

For Meehan, this internship is also his first time on the east coast, but it won’t be his last. In the fall, he will be attending Wesleyan University in Connecticut and sees a future for himself in Washington, D.C.

“Being here is so different. It feels like where I belong,” Meehan said. “I’ve wanted to come to the Capitol my entire life because I plan on going into a career in government. When we first arrived and we’re walking down the hallway, I see John McCain standing there waiting for the elevator. … It’s exhilarating and like nothing I’ve ever experienced.”

While being opened to the world of politics and beyond, the interns, though, are still reminded of their Alaska roots.

“The good thing about the office is that pretty much everybody is from Alaska or lives in Alaska,” said Dusek, who is planning to attend Colorado State University in the fall. “We’re just a bunch of Alaskans in there, so it’s a good environment — a bunch of Alaskans in a giant city.”

Both Dusek and Meehan said they have already learned a lot through the experience, and are looking forward to the remainder of their time working with the senator.

“It’s amazing to see how busy her schedule is, but that she is willing to make time for us,” Dusek said. “We can ask her questions throughout the day and she’s super fun to talk to. I’ve learned so much all over the office.”

Reach Kat Sorensen at kat.sorensen@peninsulaclarion.com.

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