As is the case with most who work, intern or volunteer with Project Vote Smart, I did not really know what to expect of my newest adventure. Was there really a high tech political research facility in the middle of the Rocky Mountains? It took four stops and three airplanes to get to Missoula from Northern California, the last of which I am not entirely sure was not held together with much more than duct tape and hope. The two hour drive was breath-takingly beautiful. It is quickly apparent why Montana is referred to as the Big Sky State.
After six weeks of what I thought of as Project Vote Smart boot camp, I transferred to the Tucson office, where I would be responsible for recruiting and training about 40 student interns. I was given the opportunity to work in both the Public Statements Department and the Key Votes Department. We developed great professional relationships with several of the interns, leading some to be hired as part time staff and others to volunteer their time semester after semester. It felt like a family, deeply dedicated to the mission of Project Vote Smart!
Summers here in Tucson can get a little tiresome, whereas in Montana, the summer is the much deserved reward for surviving the long winter. Therefore, it was not a surprise when the National Director put out a desperate plea for volunteers to work on the Project's National Bus Tour. I jumped at the opportunity! I have always loved to travel, and through this experience, I was able to visit eight states that I had never been to before (OH, KS, MI, IN, IA, NE, MO, MN). It was a lot more difficult than I had originally thought, but I met some amazing people and experienced incredible hospitality. Through the Bus Tour I was also able to attend both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, which I can say without a doubt was one of the highlights of my time with Project Vote Smart. Each day, we walked the 2 miles or so through the security zone with our boxes of materials and folding table on a collapsible rolling dolly. We would set up our makeshift educational table outside the convention, right next to the Daily Show bus. So throughout the day, the actors would come by our table and chat with us. They are quite funny in real life too. I became incredibly adept at delivering the most essential information about PVS in whatever time I was given.
When I returned to Tucson, we were suddenly just a few months from the election. There was a noticeable excitement in the air! After many months of hard work, we had the Tucson election party at my house. The new Tucson director, Bonnie, spent her first night after work hanging lights, balloons, and streamers. I catered the entire event and still put on my evening gown moments before the guests arrived. All our interns looked stunning in their fancy clothes!
After the election, I was given the great honor and privilege of managing the prestigious National Internship Program. I spoke with hundreds of students, employers and professors. It was an amazing experience meeting these interns that I had come to know so extensively through their application, interview and references. This summer, we traveled nearly every weekend, with trips to Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, and Seattle. I'm back in Tucson right now, but not for long. I'll be heading to Oregon in a couple weeks to discover what is in the next chapter for me. I know Vote Smart will continue to thrive. I have had the rare opportunity to learn just how many people care so deeply about this project and its mission.
-Tallie Spiller, Internship Coordinator
2 September 2009
Written by Bonnie
Related tags: blog, interns, key-votes, Montana, public-statements, staff-members