By Zenebou Sylla ‘22
Political Communication major Christopher Henderson-West ’20 recently was selected as a full-time staff intern with Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA13) through the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) Emerging Leaders program, one of the most elite internships on Capitol Hill.
With more than 450 applications this year, Henderson-West was one of just 25 students to be accepted for a spot. While working for the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators at The Washington Center, the Emerson in DC program, Henderson-West learned from a friend about the internship that he later realized would open a gateway of new opportunities.
“It was very, very exciting, mainly because I had sort of heard how selective they were,” Henderson-West said of getting the internship.
Not only was Henderson-West one of the very few to realize this opportunity, but the internship also provides housing, a stipend, office placements, and opportunities to meet and interact with professional legislators and leaders working in all branches of government. Henderson-West said the program also comes with the opportunity to travel to Japan.
He said getting an opportunity like this has allowed him to start building his professional foundation.
“At the moment, it just means that I am able to get much needed experience from Congress,” he said. “It also means that I am able to start networking and building the foundations of my career, [and] that I was also very well prepared, both from a personal perspective and from an educational perspective, in terms of the opportunity that I was able to get from Emerson.”
He said that Emerson was able to provide him with the resources he needed to further develop his skills, and with the help of people like tamia jordan, director of Emerson’s Intercultural Student Affairs, he was able to practice those skills in conferences, festivals, and political campaigns.
“What I think has been really helpful has been the classes like Power and Privilege, Argument Advocacy, all of these different things that I hadn’t been able to learn early on,” Henderson-West said.
“I had the chance to start honing those skills before doing [the internship], on top of the numerous organizations that I was a part of or was the head of that gave me that gave me excellence, fundraising skills, project management, team leading, all these kinds of skills that have been very helpful,” said Henderson-West, who also served as president of EAGLE (Emerson’s Advancement Group for Love and Expression).
Henderson-West encourages students to voice their choices and work for what they believe in, and learn how to practice self-care.
“What we do on that campus translates to a lot of skills that translate to the outside world. It is very important that we continue to speak up because there are a lot of people that want to know and they matter, our voices matter and it can lead to so many greater opportunities,” he said.
Henderson-West is passionate about many things — fashion, TV, and writing among them — but Political Communication is where he sees his career path. He said after the CBCF Emerging Leaders internship, he could see himself working on the staff of a legislator.
“Either [Congresswoman] Ayanna Pressley… or like [Sen. Elizabeth] Warren, because [they’re] my home district legislators…it would be nice to work in an area where I’m familiar with, but really any office would be good. My two plans are to either start law school or to go work for a political consultant firm.”