After nine years as a recruiter at a prominent law firm, Gwen Farmer enrolled at Howard University, where she’s now a junior. She is interning in the office of Rep. William Lacy Clay, and contemplating a radical career change.
“Initially, it was very overwhelming,” she said. “But my son said, ‘Mom, when you get your first A, you’ll feel like you can do well.’ And that propelled me to always continue to do well.”
Farmer said she sometimes feels intimidated working with interns younger than her son, but she doesn’t allow her age to define her.
“What difference does it make how old I am? I just don’t see where the number comes in,” Farmer said. “That’s one of the main reasons why people are apprehensive of taking risks. As adults, and as mature adults, we don’t take chances. I should especially be able to do things now, and I think that’s what keeps me youthful, fun and happy.”
Even as an intern, the Southeast D.C. native is no stranger to Capitol Hill.
Her mother worked for the late Speaker Tip O’Neill (D-Mass.), and her son, who is now an investment banker at a Wall Street investment firm, interned with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R- Texas).
She first realized she wanted to work in Congress when her son met with Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who sponsored his appointment to West Point.
“The questions she was asking him, the details she knew about him — I thought, ‘She must have an incredible staff, and I would love to do something like that,’” Farmer said.
And she’s not limiting her job options once she graduates from Howard next spring. She hopes to continue working on the Hill and will look for jobs in human resources or public relations. One of her ideal jobs, she said, would be press secretary for a Member of Congress.
“I’m hoping the rewards are greater than the risks that I took,” Farmer said. “I hope that I’m preparing myself for better fortunes than I left.”
Correction: Oct. 18, 3:06 p.m.
An earlier version of this article misstated where Gwen Farmer found her internship. She is receiving credit for her internship at the University of the District of Columbia, where she is enrolled in the Congressional Internship Program.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.