June 2022

Representative Mike Levin Becomes HillVets House Ambassador

By |2022-06-14T16:40:01-04:00June 15th, 2022|Media|

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Washington, DC – June 15, 2022

HillVets is proud to announce that Congressman Mike Levin (CA-49) has signed on as our newest HillVets House Ambassador. HillVets House Ambassadors are Members of Congress who publicly support the HillVets House Fellowship program and consider HillVets House Fellows for placement in their office to undertake substantive policy work. These Ambassadors are committed to assisting the military-connected community lead successful and impactful careers in the public policy realm.

HillVets House Fellowship (HVHF) program provides Veterans, Service-members, and surviving family members who wish to pursue a career in government, policy, and/or advocacy, the opportunity to serve as a Legislative Fellow in a Congressional office. Fellows develop relationships with peers and mentors while gaining substantive exposure to and understanding of all facets of the legislative process. Taking part in such experiences provides individuals with the necessary skills to find full-time employment in a policy-related position. Furthermore, HillVets offers safe, furnished, free housing for any of its Fellows who need it, as well as a monthly stipend. The HillVets House Fellowship program also provides numerous ways to broaden a Fellow’s professional network and a plethora of educational opportunities.

“As Vice Chair of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and Chair of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, I’m determined to ensure that no veteran goes hungry, homeless, or jobless,” said Rep. Levin. “With thousands of veterans and military families around Camp Pendleton, I am honored to fight for them and improve the benefits and services they have earned and deserve. We have a lot of work ahead to fulfill the promises we’ve made to our veterans, and I’m proud to partner with HillVets to do that important work.”

HillVets believes that the voices of military-connected individuals need to be heard throughout the policymaking process. It is with the help of Congressman Levin and our other HillVets House Ambassadors that we are able to provide them with the chance to contribute their lived experience, knowledge, and perceptions to the issues that most impact them.

“We are thrilled to have Congressman Levin join the family of HillVets House Ambassadors,” said Jodi Harman, HillVets Director of Programs & Communications. “It will be such a pleasure to work with him and his office in the future to increase the voice of the military-connected community among Capitol Hill staffers.”

About HillVets

HillVets’ mission is to serve the military-connected community in and around our Nation’s capital with opportunity, mentorship, housing, peer support, education, and networking in their pursuit of second service in government, and the HillVets House Fellowship program is but one path we utilize to fulfill it.

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May 2022

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto Becomes HillVets House Ambassador

By |2022-05-27T11:28:00-04:00May 27th, 2022|Media|

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Washington, DC – Thursday, May 26, 2022

HillVets is proud to announce that Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) has signed on as our newest HillVets House Ambassador. HillVets House Ambassadors are Members of Congress who publicly support the HillVets House Fellowship program and consider HillVets House Fellows for placement in their office to undertake substantive policy work. These Ambassadors are committed to assisting the military-connected community lead successful and impactful careers in the public policy realm.

HillVets House Fellowship (HVHF) program provides Veterans, Service-members, and surviving family members who wish to pursue a career in government, policy, and/or advocacy, the opportunity to serve as a Legislative Fellow in a Congressional office. Fellows develop relationships with peers and mentors while gaining substantive exposure to and understanding of all facets of the legislative process. Taking part in such experiences provides individuals with the necessary skills to find full-time employment in a policy-related position. Furthermore, HillVets offers safe, furnished, free housing for any of its Fellows who need it, as well as a monthly stipend. The HillVets House Fellowship program also provides numerous ways to broaden a Fellow’s professional network and a plethora of educational opportunities.

“I’m proud to be a Congressional Ambassador for HillVets,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “This is an excellent program that helps ensure veterans can leverage their experience and expertise to continue to serve our country through a career in government. I’ll continue to support veterans in my office, in my state, and across the country.”

HillVets believes that the voices of military-connected individuals need to be heard throughout the policymaking process. It is with the help of Senator Cortez Masto and our other HillVets House Ambassadors that we are able to provide them with the chance to contribute their lived experience, knowledge, and perceptions to the issues that most impact them.

“It was such an honor to meet Senator Cortez Masto and welcome her as a HillVets House Ambassador,” said Jodi Harman, HillVets Director of Programs & Communications. “We look forward to the day we place a capable, motivated HillVets House Fellow into her office.”

About HillVets

HillVets’ mission is to serve the military-connected community in and around our Nation’s capital with opportunity, mentorship, housing, peer support, education, and networking in their pursuit of second service in government, and the HillVets House Fellowship program is but one path we utilize to fulfill it.

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Leia’s Leadership

By |2022-05-04T08:29:26-04:00May 4th, 2022|Blog|

By Betty Rhoades, Executive Director, HillVets Foundation

10 Reasons Why Princess Leia Was Totally Boss - AIM Institute

May 4th is Star Wars Day (“May the fourth be with you” – get it?), so it’s a good day to remind folks that leadership lessons aren’t limited to just real-life people and organizations. If we choose to, we can learn all kinds of things from the fictional characters we admire – and even the ones we don’t.

In my opinion, the greatest leader in Star Wars canon is General Princess Leia Skywalker Organa Solo – and yes, ALL her titles and names are important. Here’s why:

* She was fearless AND empathetic – Leaders are always asked to accept and manage a certain amount of risk. Leia understood this, and she never hesitated to grab a blaster or pilot a speeder through the forests of Endor. But to be effective, leaders can’t be blowing things up (literally or figuratively) 100% of the time – they also have to relate to the people around them, to make those risks more palatable. Leia understood the pain of loss, whether it was her home planet or her son, and she was able to use that to empathize with the people she led. That empathy engendered loyalty and trust among her team, which of course made them more willing to follow her into proverbial battle.

*She was a master communicator, whether she was inspiring her team or sassing her adversaries – Leaders need to be able to convey a variety of messages, both at the individual and team levels. Leia could move seamlessly from strategic discussions to inspirational speeches to one-on-one instruction and guidance. She even communicated deftly with her enemies, distracting and misleading them. No matter the circumstances, Leia was able to craft clear, compelling messages – a skill that effective leaders must master, even if they’d just as soon kiss a Wookiee.

* She knew how to delegate and how to motivate – As much as I’d like to believe that Leia could have saved the galaxy all by herself, she was much more self-aware. She often delegated tasks and gave others their chances to shine. Delegation is as much about talent development as it is self-preservation, and Leia was also able to adjust her approach to bring out the best in a variety of colleagues. For instance, Leia’s interactions with her brother Luke focus on tactfully acknowledging his emotions and gracefully pointing the way. In contrast, when she engages with Han Solo, Leia often chooses direct, borderline insulting language – but hey, I guess it worked out okay for her and her favorite stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerf-herder (okay, maybe her language in that case was more than borderline insulting).

* She had rock solid belief in her team, her mission, and her badass self – No matter the odds or the plot twists, there was never any question that Leia was dedicated to the greater good. She was laser-focused on her mission, and she exuded confidence that inspired her team, even when the going got tough. Leia was an absolute Jedi master at straddling the line between assurance and arrogance, which then gave the other rebels the confidence that they, too, could make the galaxy a better, safer, more just place. It may seem simple, but this kind of conviction is hard to come by – and she demonstrated it even at the darkest of times.

Pretty impressive, huh? Oh, and Leia did ALL of that while people underestimated her (at best) or actively degraded her because she was a woman. And she did SOME of that while dressed in a supremely uncomfortable gold bikini (don’t even get me started).

Now…will someone get this big walking carpet out of her way?

Who are your favorite fictional leaders?

December 2021

HillVets and WWP Announce Fellowship Selection

By |2021-12-08T10:18:38-05:00December 8th, 2021|Media|

WASHINGTON, DC (Dec. 8, 2021) – Today the HillVets Foundation and Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) announced U.S. Navy veteran Kirsten Laha-Walsh as the recipient of the inaugural HillVets-WWP Fellowship.

“Kirsten Laha-Walsh is the perfect choice to be the first HillVets-Wounded Warrior Project Fellow. As a Navy veteran and caregiver for her retired Marine Corps spouse and Purple Heart recipient, she has a passion for empowering and supporting wounded veterans,” said HillVets Foundation Executive Director Betty Rhoades. “Kirsten just completed the HillVets LEAD program as part of Cohort 6, and we are so proud that she has chosen to continue her public policy and advocacy training. We’re humbled that she has put her trust in HillVets and Wounded Warrior Project, and we know she will make a big impact on the military-connected community.”

Announced earlier this year, the HillVets-WWP Fellowship is unique in that the fellow will serve six months as a legislative fellow for the U.S. House For Country Caucus, a bipartisan group of members of Congress who are all U.S. military veterans. The fellowship will be followed by a six-month rotation working at WWP with the Government & Community Relations team. The fellowship is open to post-9/11 veterans interested in pursuing a career in advocacy and public policy.

“After a fantastic experience in the LEAD Cohort, I was inspired and excited to move on to this incredible fellowship and partnership,” Laha-Walsh said. “I look forward to continuing to advocate for military and veteran families and learn about macro policy on the national level.”

Laha-Walsh served in the U.S. Navy, where she worked as a hospital corpsman, specializing as a respiratory therapist. She provided both outpatient and inpatient support for active-duty members, dependents, and beneficiaries while serving as a non-commissioned officer. Prior to her service, she worked in the entertainment sector focusing on logistics and coordination.

“We’re excited for Kirsten to take part in this fellowship, which will help make her an even stronger advocate for our nation’s veterans,” said Jose Ramos, WWP vice president, Government and Community Relations. “We hope she will be the first in a long line of next-generation advocates for our military service members and veterans who benefit from this partnership.”

Laha-Walsh is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Social Work at the University of Alabama focusing on the military and veteran-affiliated populations.

“She is a frontline leader who leads with her head and heart,” said Dr. David L. Albright, University Distinguished Research Professor and Hill Crest Foundation Endowed Chair in Mental Health Research at The University of Alabama, and Director of the Office for Military Families and Veterans at the School of Social Work. “Kirsten will be an asset as she is committed to the mission of the social work profession to enhance human wellbeing and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with a focus on military and veteran families.”

About HillVets

HillVets’ mission is to serve the community of veterans, service members, and supporters in our nation’s capital with opportunity, mentorship, housing, peer support, and training in their pursuit of continued service in government.

About Wounded Warrior Project

Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.

 

 

HillVets Media Contact

Betty Rhoades, Executive Director

betty@hillvets.org, 202-629-7937

 

Wounded Warrior Project Media Contact

Ed Frank, Senior Public Affairs / Communications Specialist

efrank@woundedwarriorproject.org, 904-510-5504

 

UA social work Media Contact

Nicholas Finch, Communications Specialist

njfinch@ua.edu, 205.348.3942

 

September 2021

Remembering and Reflecting

By |2021-09-10T16:00:50-04:00September 10th, 2021|Blog|

By Betty Rhoades, Executive Director, HillVets Foundation

On September 11, 2001, I was a senior in college. I was preparing for the next chapter – law school, though at the time I didn’t know where or what I would be studying. I didn’t have any real connection to the military. I was working as a resident assistant in a freshman dormitory for women. It was a Tuesday, which meant my classes started a bit later, so I could have a leisurely start to my day. I wasn’t normally a morning TV watcher, but for some reason I tuned to the Today Show, just as background noise while I got dressed and ready.

Or so I thought.

It was a little bit before 9 AM, and I immediately saw the smoke billowing out of the North tower of the World Trade Center. In the initial moments after the 8:46 AM impact, Katie Couric and Matt Lauer learned on air that a plane crashed into the building. Lauer called it an accident, which was certainly what I assumed. A terrible accident. I was, of course, only right about the terrible part.

At 9:03 AM, we watched live as the second plane hit the South tower. It became all too clear that this was no accident.

I’m from New York originally – on 9/11, most of my family was safe on Long Island, but there were a few who lived and worked in Manhattan. I tried to call and find out if everyone was okay, but the phone lines were already so jammed that it was impossible to get through. I started hearing my residents gathering nervously in the hall, wondering what was going on. I knew I had to tend to them first. They were just kids – scared 18-year-olds who never dreamed they’d watch their country being attacked, live on television.

I walked into campus for my 11 AM class, stopping at the student union on my way. Every TV in the building had a throng of students and faculty staring at it, transfixed by the horror unfolding. We learned that the Pentagon had been hit. We learned that U.S. air space had been shut down. At 9:59 AM, we saw the South tower collapse. The North tower followed at 10:28 AM. I went to my class, because I didn’t know what else to do. It was very clear that neither my classmates nor our professor had seen the news. I filled them in. We were dismissed, walking out of the building in somber silence, not quite sure what should come next.

In the days that followed, we learned more about the attacks. The attackers. The victims. The families. The first responders. On September 12 and beyond, there were examples of unity and national pride. There were also examples of fear, bigotry, and racism. The events of 9/11 catapulted our country into twenty years of heightened security, increased surveillance, and, of course, war. They catapulted millions of men and women into lives and careers of service and sacrifice, including my now husband, Jason, who joined the Air Force.

I’ll be honest – while I was certainly deeply affected by the deadliest foreign assault ever on U.S. soil, it didn’t really change my trajectory. I still graduated and went on to law school. I still had very little interaction with the military community. When I came to DC in 2005 and was offered a position with the Department of Veterans Affairs, I accepted the job not due to some personal connection or sense of patriotic duty, but because I simply wanted to help people.

Little did I know that one decision would completely change my life.

In the 20 years since 9/11, millions of Americans have answered the call and served our country in uniform. They joined the millions more who served prior. Since 2005, I have been privileged to serve many of those individuals and their families. In my experience, they represent some of the best of America – dedicated, determined, and generous, with a commitment to serving others that doesn’t stop when they take off their uniforms.

To my fellow civilians – those who, like younger me, don’t think about the military or veterans more than occasionally, in passing – as you remember and reflect on this monumental anniversary, think about those who stood up in the wake of tragedy and said, “I’m ready to serve.” But I challenge you to think about them not just as they were when they deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. Think about them not just in their uniforms, with their weapons. Think about them not as a monolith, and not as whatever cliché comes most quickly to mind. Think about them as complex, unique, whole human beings, with a myriad of hopes and dreams and goals – just like you.

Part of why I take my role at HillVets so seriously is because these incredible people, who put their lives on the line for their fellow Americans, deserve a seat at the table. Policy professionals and elected officials have made countless decisions in the two decades since 9/11, and while we can each choose to agree or disagree with those decisions, I think we can all understand that we want the people making them to truly represent the diversity – in every sense of the word – of the American people. That has to include military-connected individuals.

In my career, I have seen time and time again the incredible good that can come from servicemembers, veterans, and their family members banding together to impact change. We need that now more than ever.

If you are inspired to get involved and help us increase the representation and impact of military-connected individuals working in public policy, I hope you’ll reach out – there is still much work to be done.

We at HillVets wish you peace as you commemorate this anniversary in whatever way is most meaningful to you. Thank you to our wonderful community – we appreciate all you do.

Update Regarding the HillVets 100 of 2019 Tribute Gala

By |2021-09-03T13:53:06-04:00September 3rd, 2021|Blog|

When the world shut down in March 2020, we hoped we’d be able to reschedule for a later date. We didn’t think “a later date” would be this far into 2021…but here we are, unfortunately, once again looking at rising case numbers and reimposed mask mandates.

In addition to the COVID-19 challenges, our beautiful and iconic venue has had to undergo some additional renovations, rendering it unavailable for the remainder of the year. Given all this, we have decided not to reschedule the HillVets 100 of 2019. We are excited to announce that the HillVets 100 of 2021 will take place on March 23, 2022, in the Hall of Flags at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Nominations will open sometime in late November/early December.

We are disappointed, of course, but we thank you for your understanding as we navigated this difficult situation. Any ticket purchases that haven’t already been refunded will be returned to you immediately (bank timelines for refunds vary greatly, but please reach out to Jena Doyle at jena@hillvets.org if you have questions or concerns).

Please let us know if there’s anything we can do to help. We look forward to making the HillVets 100 of 2021 the most exciting and inspiring event we’ve hosted yet!

July 2021

HillVets Announces Fellowship in Partnership with Wounded Warrior Project

By |2021-07-22T11:37:51-04:00July 22nd, 2021|Media|

Washington, DC (July 22, 2021): The HillVets Foundation is proud to partner with Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) to present a special fellowship opportunity for a post-9/11 veteran interested in pursuing a career in advocacy and public policy. The HillVets – WWP Fellowship is unique in that the fellow will serve six months as a legislative fellow for a Member of Congress followed by a six months rotation working at WWP with the Government & Community Relations Team, making this fellowship opportunity a truly unique and powerful experience.

The HillVets – WWP Fellowship Program is designed for veterans who wish to pursue a career in government, policy, and/or politics, with a focus on issues of interest to post-9/11 veterans and their families. The Fellowship will give the selected veteran the chance to experience the legislative process firsthand, while building the necessary skills to embark upon a successful career in policy. Housing is available if needed, and a monthly stipend will be provided. Alongside our HillVets House Fellows, the HillVets WWP fellow will participate in a variety of educational, mentoring, and networking opportunities throughout their fellowship.

“We are thrilled to kick off this partnership with Wounded Warrior Project,” said HillVets Foundation Executive Director Betty Rhoades. “A program which provides both Capitol Hill and VSO advocacy experience will make an impact on the selected fellow and the broader post-9/11 veteran community. We can’t wait to see what HillVets, Wounded Warrior Project, and this fellow will accomplish together!”

“Veterans bring a perspective unlike any other to our nation’s capital, sharing their insights about their real-life needs,” said Jose’ Ramos, VP of government and community relations at WWP. “Providing veterans with the skills they need to be successful advocates and public policy champions will help the entire veteran community get critical legislation passed, and necessary reforms made. Wounded Warrior Project is proud to partner with HillVets on this fellowship.”

The application link for the HillVets-WWP Fellowship is now live and will be accepting submissions until August 10, 2021.

About HillVets

HillVets’ mission is to serve the community of veterans, Service members, and supporters in our Nation’s Capital with opportunity, mentorship, housing, peer support, and training in their pursuit of continued service in government.

About Wounded Warrior Project

Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.

HillVets Media Contact

Jena Doyle, Director of Programs and Congressional Engagement

jena@hillvets.org; 339-788-2422

Wounded Warrior Project Media Contact

Mattison Brooks, Communications Specialist

mbrooks@woundedwarriorproject.org, 202.969.1120

Senator Bernie Sanders becomes HillVets House Ambassador

By |2021-07-19T16:54:53-04:00July 19th, 2021|Media|

Washington, D.C. (July 19, 2021) –HillVets is excited to introduce Senator Bernie Sanders (I, VT) as a HillVets House Ambassador, a Member of Congress who publicly supports the HillVets House Fellowship Program. In addition, Ambassadors consider our Fellows for initial placement, as well as permanent positions within their offices. Our growing list of HillVets House Ambassadors are dedicated to helping veterans lead a successful career in public policy.
Designed for veterans who wish to pursue a career in government, policy, and politics, the HillVets House Fellowship program provides highly qualified veterans, servicemembers, and surviving family members opportunities to serve as Legislative Fellows in Congressional Offices. HillVets House Fellows network, develop relationships with peers and mentors, and gain substantive exposure and experience within all aspects of the legislative process. Through such experiences, the fellowship provides individuals with the necessary skills to find full-time employment in a policy-related position. Additionally, housing is available for veterans who need it, and a monthly stipend is given to all HillVets House Fellows. The HillVets House Fellowship also offers participants a plethora of educational opportunities.
“I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity HillVets has provided me to continue serving my country. As a veteran and a patriot, I feel an imperative for progressive veterans to enter the policy arena and fight for an American experience that truly embodies our founding ideals. For far too long, corporations have sat at the driver’s seat of American policy, coopting our military and electoral process to continually mislead Americans into believing they are the beneficiaries of policy designed to protect and promote corporate interests. The veteran experience sheds light on the real-world effects of entanglements in foreign, military, veteran, and corporate policymaking, says Essam Attia, Legislative Assistant to Senator Sanders and Former HillVets House Fellow. “The veteran voice on Capitol Hill is necessary for ensuring the men and women who serve our country are doing so in the best interest of the American people and their service is honored and dignified. The role HillVets plays in providing veterans the opportunity to continue serving our nation is critical to the success of both the country and our veterans. I am proud of my military service and honored to continue to serve the people of Vermont under Senator Sanders, an opportunity to which I owe HillVets a debt of gratitude.”
As one of the least represented groups on Capitol Hill, HillVets believes the voices of military- connected individuals need to be heard. We thank Senator Sanders for giving them and their supporters a seat at the table, as well as a chance to add their perspectives, expertise, and experiences to the policy conversation that takes place on Capitol Hill.
“It is a true honor to welcome Senator Sanders to the HillVets Community,” says Jena Doyle, HillVets Director of Programs and Congressional Engagement. “I look forward to establishing an equally beneficial working relationship with the Senator and his team, and I am excited about the possibility of finding them an incredible fellow to add to their legislative team!”
About HillVets
HillVets’ mission is to serve the community of veterans, Service members, and supporters in our Nation’s Capital with opportunity, mentorship, housing, peer support, and training in their pursuit of continued service in government.
HillVets Media Contact
Jena Doyle—Director of Programs and Congressional Engagement; jena@hillvets.org; 339-788-2422
The Office of Senator Bernie Sanders Media Contact
Freeland Ellis—Press Secretary; Freeland_Ellis@sanders.senate.gov; 202-224-5141

June 2021

Congressman Tony Gonzales becomes HillVets House Ambassador

By |2021-06-03T11:36:10-04:00June 3rd, 2021|Media|

Washington, D.C. (June 3, 2021) –HillVets is excited to welcome Congressman Tony Gonzales (R, TX-23) as a HillVets House Ambassador. A HillVets House Ambassador is a Member of Congress who publicly supports the HillVets House Fellowship Program. Ambassadors like Congressman Gonzales believe in the idea of helping veterans seek a successful career in policy.

The HillVets House Fellowship Program is designed for veterans who wish to pursue a career in government, policy, and politics. The purpose of the program is to provide highly qualified veterans, servicemembers, and surviving family members with opportunities to network, develop relationships with peers and mentors, and gain experience by becoming a Legislative Fellow in a Congressional office. The Fellowship gives veterans the chance to experience the legislative process firsthand while building and developing the necessary skills needed to find full time employment in a policy related position. In addition, housing is available for veterans who need it, and a small monthly stipend is provided to all HillVets House Fellows. HillVets House Fellows receive a plethora of educational opportunities throughout their fellowship. Congressman Gonzales, and the growing list of ambassadors on our team, consider our Fellows for initial fellowship placement, as well as permanent positions within their office.

“As a veteran myself, I know how difficult the transition from active duty to civilian life can be, and it is incredibly helpful to have a supportive community like HillVets to aid in the transition process,” said Congressman Gonzales. “Our veterans and military families are also uniquely qualified when it comes to making policy as many of them have been or are still directly impacted by policy decisions from our government. I am excited to be a HillVets ambassador and seeing our community grow as a resource for our veterans and military families that want to work in Congress.”

HillVets believes that the voices, experiences, perspectives, and expertise of veterans should be an asset to the policymaking process on Capitol Hill. We thank Congressman Gonzales for joining us in our cause to increase veteran representation throughout the policy conversations that take place in Washington.

“We are delighted to welcome Congressman Gonzales to the HillVets Family!” said Jena Doyle, HillVets Director of Programs and Congressional Engagement. “Congressman Gonzales brings a unique viewpoint to Congress as a Navy Veteran and is the perfect example of how a veteran voice can be a positive addition to shape and influence policymaking. We are grateful to have him in our corner.”

About HillVets

HillVets’ mission is to serve the community of veterans, Service members, and supporters in our Nation’s Capital with opportunity, mentorship, housing, peer support, and training in their pursuit of continued service in government.

HillVets Media Contact

Jena Doyle—Director of Programs and Congressional Engagement; jena@hillvets.org; 339-788-2422

The Office of Congressman Tony Gonzales Media Contact

Paige Lindgren—Communications Director; paige.lindgren@mail.house.gov; 202-225-4511

May 2021

Figuring it Out

By |2021-05-26T11:50:44-04:00May 26th, 2021|Blog|

By Patrick Miller

In January of 2020, I had my career trajectory all planned out. I was finishing my Bachelor’s in Political Science at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and had accepted a summer internship with a Senate office.  I was also turning my focus to applying for graduate schools to start in the fall. It finally felt, after a few long years of wandering aimlessly, that I had it “figured out.”

Fast forward to April and things had taken a drastic turn, as we all can remember. The COVID-19 pandemic forced courses to become remote, Capitol Hill was either cancelling internships for the summer, or shifting them to also be virtual experiences and no one knew what the summer or fall meant for academic coursework. So, I spent the summer working remotely for Student Veterans of America as a policy intern, assisting with COVID-19 response efforts to help protect GI Bill users and supporting where I could with research in the office.

Fast forward a year into the pandemic. In January of 2021 a work friend suggested I apply for HillVets, as she personally knew someone who had been in the program and felt it was extremely rewarding.  On what could be described as a whim, I applied, with a glimmer of hope that this could resurrect my hopes of going to grad school and finally working on the Hill. Even applying for HillVets reignited my ambition that had been quiet since COVID had shut it all down with quarantines, social distancing, and teleworking. I started hunting for a grad program I would want to participate in, and applying to programs in D.C. And low and behold, in late February I got the email that said I had been accepted into the HillVets House Fellowship Program!

Once again, the trajectory of my life completely shifted. Suddenly I had to work on strengthening my resume, crafting writing samples and emailing offices to build relationships for a potential placement as a fellow. I had to learn a new skillset for contacting offices, interviewing, and asking for a placement in their office. Then George Washington University accepted me into a Political Management Master’s program, and planning for grad school had to start in earnest. I had to get my life packed up and ready to move on short notice and plan two trips across the country in less than a month; one for my best friend’s commission into the United States Air Force in Oregon, and the other for the big move to D.C. to start the HillVets program. To say it was a stressful month would be an understatement.

At the beginning of April, I made the move, driving from Omaha to D.C. over the course of three days. I unloaded all my stuff in D.C. and moved into the HillVets house. I was able to meet Jena and Betty, who run the programs and house. I met the other House fellows over a week or two, and I started working in Congresswoman Susan Wild’s office.

Now it’s almost June 2021, and it feels like we’re rounding the corner of COVID-19, as millions of Americans are vaccinated or are getting vaccinated.  The weather is getting hot again, and restrictions are starting to lift across the country. What’s just as great or even better, is the fact that I’m doing work I love again, in a city I’ve been trying to get to for years, and accomplishing my personal, professional, and academic goals. It feels like I have it “figured out” again.

HillVets has really helped me get back on track, whether it was intentional or not. I was feeling lost and aimless at my last job, with no idea at how I’d get back on my planned trajectory that a year before felt as solid as stone. Within a few months though, that all changed and with it my life, demeanor, and ambition. There’s now a new trajectory for me. I’m learning the core skills necessary to become a legislative assistant, the abilities that will make me competitive for a career on Capitol Hill. HillVets will also give me the network and additional skills to make sure I meet the best people to help me look and find a job when I’ve accumulated enough skills here on the Hill. The end goal with this House Fellowship with HillVets is to be a staffer on a committee, working to make the greatest impact possible and work on substantive legislative policy.