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Students Journey From Music City to the Hill

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Harpeth Hall interns (from left) Anne Gray Thornburg, Leslie Rolfe, Ellie Davis and Laura Lee Singer are spending their winter break working in the offices of Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander.

“I’ve learned all of the nitty-gritty details of mail sorting, phone etiquette and giving Capitol tours,” Hartong said. “Even in the quiet times here, there is still so much important work to be done.”

In addition to seeing the business side of D.C., the Harpeth Hall students had a chance to explore the fun side of the city. They toured the National Mall, saw “Billy Elliot” at the Kennedy Center and dined at some of the city’s best restaurants.

Inspired by the experience, some of the interns are considering returning to the District after college.

Singer said she likes the fast-paced nature of working in Congress and could imagine herself returning one day.

“Everyone is always looking forward and looking ahead,” she said. “I really like that part.”

Others are still weighing their post-high school plans and letting their experiences inform those decisions.

Junior Leslie Rolfe, who is interning in Corker’s office, said she’s still thinking about what she wants to study in college.  She said spending her winterim here has let her get a taste of life in Washington, D.C.

“I’ve been trying to figure out if I want to go in the political direction or if I want to go in the business direction,” Rolfe said. “I’m still trying to figure it out.”

For one Harpeth Hall alumna, the winterim internship was particularly formative. Melissa Neal, now Cooper’s scheduler in his district office, started her career in politics with a 2005 winterim internship in Cooper’s D.C. office.

“I did the internship, and I loved working for Jim,” Neal said.

When she graduated from college in 2010, she reached out to Cooper’s staff and landed a job with his campaign and then his district office.

Of the few weeks she spent in D.C. as a high school student, Neal most remembers “intern time,” when the Congressman sat down with the interns on a daily basis to talk about their experiences and further their education.

“On my first day there, he assigned me a book to read,” Neal said, remembering that she had to read, write about and present on James Mann’s “Rise of the Vulcans,” which focused on President George W. Bush’s top foreign policy advisers.

“Jim is very focused on working with his interns. He loves it,” Neal said.

Correction: Jan. 19, 2012

The photo accompanying the article incorrectly identified four girls as interns in Sen. Bob Corker's office. Two of the four pictured, Ellie Davis and Anne Gray Thornburg, were interns in Sen. Lamar Alexander's office.

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