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10 Weeks in Montana

22 August 2007
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10 Weeks in Montana
Great Divide Ranch - Six interns arrived on June 11, wide-eyed and uncertain of what lay ahead. Spread out across the many Project Vote Smart departments, their patience, passion, and pursuit of democracy were put to the test and they prevailed. On August 17, they will all return home, with a renewed sense of civic duty and fresh perspective on their studies and the world.

"When I arrived at the Great Divide Ranch ten weeks ago, I was unsure what was in store for me; idealistic and energized, I had set out for the summer on an adventure to save democracy in the most beautiful place in the country. Now, as I await a redeye around the country to get back home tonight, I depart with the knowledge that preserving our democratic system is about as hard as getting a direct flight from Missoula to Nashville," said Key Votes Intern James Barnes.

Intern Christine Lai commented, "Being in both the cities/counties and media departments has given me an interesting perspective on Project Vote Smart. On one hand, I know more than I ever wanted to know about local governance - for example the difference between strong mayor-commission and manager-commission governments. But on the other hand, there would be nothing to promote in the media department were it not for this meticulous research."

The interns were exceptionally involved with their office work, but they also boast an active engagement with the Project Vote Smart community. Interns Neil Webster and Nathan Williams contributed an enormous amount to the construction of the Great Divide Ranch fence project. "I have left behind a little piece of myself here in Montana, something that will likely outlive me and be my lasting legacy," Webster proudly remarked about his fence.

In addition, interns Amy Augustine and Sandley Chou played softball for the Project Vote Smart team in nearby town Anaconda. Augustine commented, "the opportunity to live and work with so many politically driven and passionate individuals has restored my hope in the future of American politics. And I have a feeling the PVS softball team will take the championship next year. Democracy triumphs every playing field! Indubitably. Indeed."

After ten weeks of outdoor adventures, research, legislation tracking, information checking, road trips, softball practices, dam building, fence construction, painting, fishing, and hiking trips, the interns were very pensive reflecting upon their past ten weeks in the great Montana wilderness.

Speeches and media intern Nathan Williams fondly said, "The recreational opportunities available here at Project Vote Smart are beyond anything I have ever experienced."

Cities/counties and media intern Carson Cooper fondly remembered his weekend outings. "Being in Montana was a great opportunity to acquaint myself with the local towns and communities. I know Philipsburg will always have a place in my heart as the place where I displayed my extraordinary horseshoe talents."

"I'm really happy I took time out of my life to work for Project Vote Smart. It's a wonderful organization that has taught me a lot about life and politics," media intern Seddi Kakrada added.

Perhaps Barnes summed it up best when he commented, "As someone who goes to school in Washington, DC, it's easy to get caught up in the hustle of politics inside the beltway. My time here this summer, along with providing me an immeasurable amount of research experience, has given me a huge amount of perspective on what exactly the hustle is. Project Vote Smart aims to slow it down and show the American public what makes it run. In the short time that I have been here, I've gained a ton of new friends, seen four states I had never seen before, and done my country a little service in its advancement towards sustaining an informed electorate."

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