Blog post by summer intern Bridget Silha
Like most kids growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I was grateful enough to not worry about the necessities of life. My family made sure that I wanted for nothing: clothes, food, etc. And even though both of my parents worked full time jobs, my schools provided for my after-school care. I was spoiled and I didn’t realize it.
I didn’t realize it until I came to Washington, D.C.
My major is Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy which focuses on ancient thinking of human nature and how we should apply this human nature to government. Not surprisingly, Plato and Aristotle didn’t have many thoughts on child care, breastfeeding programs, or child nutrition programs. So with my background, I didn’t have much experience with child care, its funding, or how they operated in DC. Coming in, I didn’t think it would be complicated. I mean, everyone can get behind child care – right?
Looking back now, I was naïve to assume that healthy eating, physical activity, and proper hygiene were in all child care facilities. Now, I see that I was spoiled and amazingly lucky to have the support I did growing up. After all, child care was supposed to be easy – right?
Short answer: no. My first day at Child Care Aware® of America (besides learning everyone’s names and titles) was dedicated to background reading on President Trump’s 2018 Budget, the different areas of child care that CCAoA works on, and learning acronyms. So many acronyms. It became clear to me that child care was a language that must be learned before any political action can be taken. And even on my first day, it became VERY apparently to me that those people who actually knew what these acronyms meant were heroes in their own right.
My time here at CCAoA, I’ve had the great pleasure to wear many hats in the office and I’ve loved them all!
I had the great opportunity to track any legislation and hearings related to childhood nutrition during my summer. This part of my internship brought me up close and personal with Capitol Hill at least twice a week. It also helped me gain a new appreciation for agriculture. Before CCAoA, I thought agriculture was the most boring committee in Congress. Even though my Senator is a senior leader on the Senate Agriculture Committee, I had no interest in soil research or university funding for greenhouses. But over these past few weeks, I’ve seen and heard the importance of agriculture in our Congress. They oversee research in plant genetics, the SNAP budget (another acronym I learned), and they even highlighted my college – Michigan State University – for their achievements in agriculture research. Now, I have subscriptions to multiple morning agriculture columns and I know their importance in our economy.
Another important aspect of my internship was analyzing mountains of data. One of my goals coming into this internship was to broaden my skills when it comes to applied data and data visualization. Thankfully, everyone at CCAoA was more than willing to help me achieve my goal. Even if my original tasks had nothing to do with data analytics, my supervisors were more than happy to help me find projects to work on and connect me with employees in other departments that had advice to give me. I can’t thank my supervisors enough – especially Krista Scott on the Health Policy Team – for finding projects that would match my passions. Through these projects, I can intelligently speak to how much of a disparity there is between states in terms of child care nutrition programs (i.e. breastfeeding, healthy eating, and physical activity).
Coming into this internship, I knew that I cared about child care but now I have a much deeper understanding of its barriers to success. I’ve discovered facts about child care that I’ll carry with me on my way to graduate school and, although I won’t be going into advocacy, working here has definitely opened my eyes to how non-profits operate.
Finally, I want to recognize how amazing the CCAoA office is. Everyone has been very friendly and welcoming since our first day here. Not only were they very friendly but almost all of our conversations were centered around food which I greatly appreciated. Almost every week there was some sort of free food in the break room, every Wednesday they took all the interns out to lunch, and every day there was a 3 p.m. Starbucks run that was highly encouraged. This gave all the interns a lot of opportunities to get to know our co-workers and Arlington more.
I’ll miss all the CCAoA staff. Thanks for a great summer!