Ethan – Middle Tennessee State University

Public Policy Associate

For two months this summer I got to work in DC, learning so much about public policy work and helping a good cause at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I never thought that nonprofit work would fit me so well, but my internship with the AFSP taught me how satisfying it can really be. For years I believed the only way to make a difference was by working in Congress as a staffer, but my summer here has shown me that there are dozens of ways to get involved in the lawmaking process.

Interning in DC gave me an up-close look at America’s political system. There’s a big difference between what you see on TV and what goes on in real life, and my frequent visits to the Hill for meetings and events gave me a better understanding of the lawmaking process. As an advocate for suicide prevention, I got to help work on bills tackling everything from mental health to suicide hotlines to proper healthcare treatment for veterans. Me and the other interns created a folder to help us keep track of all these bills and find ways to help push these bills forward.

And I can’t understate how great it’s been to meet so many different people through AFSP. For example, early this summer I worked on the Advocacy Forum, an event that has AFSP members from all fifty states coming to DC to discuss policy issues and make Congress pay more attention to suicide prevention. I got to meet Karl Rove and David Axelrod during a panel where they discussed suicide prevention together for the first time, and I learned so much about potential careers from the people I met there. These were people I never would have met if I had stayed home in Tennessee this summer, and thanks to my interactions with them I had a much better idea of the kind of opportunities I might have in the future.

The phrase ‘life-changing’ gets thrown around a lot, but I seriously believe that my internship with the AFSP has changed the direction of my career. Before coming here I expected to one day end up working on the Hill as a legislative assistant, but my time here has shown me that I can make a difference with public policy advocacy and nonprofit work. This internship broadened my horizons, and I got to do all this while working with a great team of people from all over the country.  I graduate from Middle Tennessee State University this fall, and as I start looking for my first job after college I’ll be sure to remember how insightful and satisfying it was to work at the AFSP.