Indiana Statehouse internships offer students valuable insight

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By Lauren Casey/WTHR intern

INDIANAPOLIS - Recent Purdue graduate Mike Cunningham, 23, sits by Speaker Brian Bosma at Indiana House of Representatives, but he does not vote to pass any new laws.  He is, however, putting his degree in History, Communication, and Sociology to the test this winter at a unique internship.

Cunningham is a Policy Intern and Bill Reader in the House, where he gets a front row seat to the process of state government. He and other students can get an inside look at our state's government by interning or paging at the Statehouse during the legislative session.

Legislative interns can participate in a variety of programs at the Statehouse during the legislative session. Some areas include Legislative Services, Media Relations, Fiscal Policy, and Information Technology. Interns can range in ages from college underclassmen to graduate and post-graduate students.

Legislative Services interns help lawmakers while they are in session by researching bills and information, organizing their daily schedules, and working directly with constituents.

Rep. Terry Goodin, D-Crothersville, said that the interns are actually the ones who organize the schedules for the lawmakers each day. The interns then brief their legislator on what the plan is for the day.

Media interns help cover legislative topics by writing press releases and connecting members of the media to lawmakers for interviews. Alexis Schaefer is a recent Ball State graduate who is considering law school. She said that merging both the media and public policy procedures is a great preparation for her post-graduate education.

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"It helps you understand the process at the state level," said Schaefer, "as well as every aspect, which is really important to get a well rounded idea [of government]."

Fiscal Policy interns get hands-on experience as they assist in writing the state's budget. Norris Williams III is one of the older interns at the age of 26. He has the opportunity of working for the House Ways and Means Committee that deals with the state's budget and tax policies.

"We've got a new governor who proposed a new budget," said Williams. "Anytime there is a budget year it gets a little messy just because you have to make sure what programs the money is going to."

Along with a new budget, this year the legislature is in the process of switching to iPads to cut down on paper usage during session. An IGA app lists all the bills and amendments for lawmakers, and the system continually updates throughout the day so lawmakers can use an iPad instead of carrying around a stack of bills.

Sarah Miller is a student at Ivy Tech and also a House IT intern this session. IT interns assist the senators and representatives with this new technology, as well as many other computer programming jobs throughout the building.

"Another great thing we do is a live webcast of each session and committee meetings so that the public [can] see what is going on [at the statehouse]," said Miller.

Page program

But opportunities to experience government in action is not limited to college and post-graduate students.

The page program offers a unique, one-day experience for students ages 13 to 18. Pages can get an excused absence from school in exchange for a day of hands-on learning at the Statehouse.

Nate Russell is in eighth grade at Hamilton Heights Middle School. He came to the Statehouse after his dad heard about the page program.

"[My dad] just told me, hey this would be fun, and I decided, yeah, go for it," said Nate.

Legislative pages tour the statehouse, Governor's Office, House and Senate Chambers, as well as the Indiana Supreme Court in the morning. They also get the chance to sit in on committee meetings, watch a legislative session, and assist staff members throughout the day.

The student pages have a chance to meet their legislator from either the House or Senate.

Lia Simon is in eleventh grade and is already thinking about the future. She said she is considering going to law school and becoming a lawyer, or even running for public office someday.

Lia said, "I think this [experience] will be very beneficial to me in the future."

Find out who you represents you at the Indiana Statehouse.

To apply to be a legislative page:

House Republican pages

House Democratic pages

Senate Republican pages

Senate Democratic pages

To apply for an internship at the Indiana Statehouse, go to:

House Democratic internships

House Republican internships

Senate Democratic internships

Senate Republican internships