Election internships take students outside the classroom walls

Two Gwynedd-Mercy College seniors got to see the political process up close through a special program offered by The Washington Center. Daniel Freed, a communications major, attended the Republican National Convention and Daniel Bencardino, a biology major, went to the Democratic National Convention.

Each first attended a week of orientation, with guest speakers from the media and the host committee. Freed was particularly struck by a talk by CNN journalist Aaron Brown, who challenged the participants not to get caught up in the hoopla. “I definitely took that with me,” Freed said. “Though it could be hard when a [convention] speaker was saying stuff I agreed with.”

Once at the convention, each was working mostly behind the scenes for the Pennsylvania delegation. Typical of internships, some of the work was tedious, such as stuffing gift bags and organizing credentials. It wasn’t all drudgery, though — they also got to attend many delegate events, with the opportunity to do some mingling. Freed met Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett and Sen. Pat Toomey at the RNC; Bencardino met Pennsylvania Sen. Robert Casey and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter at the DNC.

Though they attended conventions for different parties, both students had a similar reaction: Politics in this country has become too polarizing. “I don’t think that kind of partisanship is healthy,” Bencardino said. “The ‘us vs. them’ mentality — that’s not how it should be,” Freed agreed.

Program notes

The internships were offered through The Washington Center, an independent, nonprofit group in Washington, D.C. There are over 50,000 alumni of TWC’s internships and seminars in Washington, London and elsewhere. The organization’s mission is to create “well-informed, public-spirited and socially engaged leaders.”

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