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She interned with Gerry Kavanaugh ’76, founder and CEO of DCS Online Communications in Washington, D.C.

Amanda Whitbred ’11 (Doylestown, Pa.), an English and philosophy double major, spent her summer interning with Gerry Kavanaugh ’76, founder and CEO of DCS Online Communications in Washington, D.C., a company that offers comprehensive Internet programs to members of Congress, Democratic campaigns, advocacy organizations, and state parties.

As a first-year student looking for a productive way to spend my summer, I don’t think I could have asked for anything better than my internship with alumnus Gerry Kavanaugh ’76 at DCS Online Communications in Washington, D.C. I spent eight weeks working on Capitol Hill as an integral part of his politically focused Internet firm. As the youngest member of the staff of seven full-time employees and five full-time interns, I was afraid my job might be office gofer, but instead I was quickly established as a valued team member.

At the beginning of my internship, I was responsible, along with the other interns, to research, write, and format the company’s weekly e-newsletter to congressional clients. We had to be up-to-date with the latest “Hill” news, research bills that were coming up for a vote, and provide for our clients a sample email they could send to constituents. While this remained an important responsibility for the intern team, my own responsibilities and office duties soon shifted.

After a conversation with Gerry in a weekly intern meeting about my interest in education policy, I received my most important assignment at DCS. Gerry is not only the founder and CEO of DCS Online Communications, he’s also the founder of SouthCoast Connected, a nonprofit group in Southeastern Massachusetts focused on dropout prevention. When one of the full-time DCS employees left to go to law school, I became the office point person in charge of overseeing the SouthCoast website, as well as for researching, writing, and tracking grant applications and awards.

In working on SouthCoast Connected, Gerry found something that interested me, the dropout crisis, and gave me the opportunity to learn about it. My role in SouthCoast gave me a meaningful way to learn about the dropout crisis while empowering a small nonprofit to actively prevent high school students from quitting school in southeastern Massachusetts.

In addition to my SouthCoast Connected responsibilities, I also contributed to a larger project involving the healthcare worker shortage and opportunities for increased training and education at community colleges in healthcare fields. All five interns, working together, extensively researched the issue, came up with our own recommendations and ideas to propose to Gerry, and collectively created a PowerPoint that Gerry was able to use at meetings as he pursued support for the project.

As an intern at DCS, I was always treated as an integral part of the DCS team. That meant I felt free to share ideas about the template for the new DCS website, voice my opinion about research I had done for the company, and make independent decisions regarding SouthCoast Connected. When I approached this internship, I hoped I would be exposed to what working in politics could be like for me some day, and that I would get to work alongside people with extensive experience in the field and learn through osmosis, but I got more than I expected.

This internship allowed me to work on my own and participate hands-on just as much as the other interns and full-time staff members. I was able to make a real contribution now, not wait until I got my first job, and I’m grateful I made the uncommon decision to intern the summer after my freshman year. It opened up a whole realm of future jobs to me, created a valuable connection in my former boss Gerry Kavanaugh, and was a lot more fun than working retail all summer.

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