Two Emerson students are working at the White House this semester after landing internship and volunteer positions through Emerson’s Washington, D.C., Program overseen by the Communication Studies Department.
Shannon Hennessey ’15, a volunteer, and Xakota Espinoza ’14, an intern, both work in the Office of Presidential Correspondence, which handles letters, emails, gifts, and other correspondence from the public to President Obama.
Landing an internship near the president of the United States was especially rewarding for Espinoza, whose politically engaged mother died less than three years ago.
“Growing up, my parents introduced me to politics at a relatively young age,” said Espinoza, a Political Communication major. “Elections [and political issues] were things both my parents were extremely passionate about. I don’t think my dad has ever been happier than the day I received my acceptance.”
“He cried the day I was accepted into the program,” Espinoza said. “I’m still in awe over how lucky I have been to have this opportunity.”
Hennessey said her favorite part about volunteering with the Office of Presidential Correspondence is, “hearing the stories people have to tell.”
“And knowing that if people feel like they are being heard, I’ve done my job,” she said.
Espinoza said she signed up for the White House Internship Program as soon as she got accepted to Emerson’s DC Program.
“I never expected to hear back from the [White House],” she said. “I knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I just could not pass up.”
Espinoza’s main job is working on the Comment Line. She also assists with and sometimes attends events featuring White House staff members as guest speakers.
“Every single time I go hear a White House staffer speak or get to attend an event, it’s anything but a typical experience,” she said.
Espinoza says working for the Comment Line is “extremely rewarding” because it allows her to “act as a bridge between people and the President.”
Hennessey, who is a Writing, Literature, and Publishing major, is not sure if politics is for her. Espinoza, on the other hand, is very sure.
“Going into politics has always been my plan,” Espinoza said. “I formerly interned for Secretary of State John Kerry when he was a senator for Massachusetts, and I also worked as a communications director for a state representative campaign in Boston. Everything I have done has ultimately been in pursuit of a career in politics once I finish college. There is no better place to do that than D.C.”