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From the Oval to the Oval Office

September 11, 2009
By Rommel McClaney

CSU senior communications major Katherine Belford went from walking the sidewalks of the Oval to walking the halls around the Oval Office during her summer internship with the White House.

The application process

Katherine Belford, a senior communications major at Colorado State, had never been to Washington, D.C. before this past summer and had never thought about it before until her then-boss suggested the idea last winter.

“I applied for several internships,” says Belford, “and I figured that this one was a long shot, but I applied anyway.” But three essays, three letters of recommendation, an application form, and a resume later she was accepted into the White House Internship Program in the Office of Presidential Correspondence.

Working with some of the most important executives, in the principal workplace of the President of the United States, getting clearance to even set foot in the White House is complex.

Along with a standard background check and drug testing, Belford had to complete a 36-page extensive background check which took three to four hours. 

 Working in the White House

The Office of Presidential Correspondence is the office which receives and replies to letters to the president, drafts and produces proclamations, messages, and greetings. Within the office is the Gift Correspondence, which documents and catalogs gifts sent to the first family, and the Agency Liaison, which constituents and federal agencies to facilitate a resolution to their problems.

"...When people write in requesting help, whether it is in the form of saving their home from foreclosure or improving conditions at their local public school, we do everything possible to help them or direct them to other agencies and resources that can be of assistance." The office is always busy having to keep the president informed daily with samples of constituent mail and other messages.

Belford feels she made a difference because she was actually communicating with the American people and listening to their hopes, fears, and concerns.

"The most gratifying part of all of it, and what made the job unique, is that I got to help people every single day."

A memorable experience

Although she knew working inside the White House wouldn't be easy, Belford was glad she didn't have any preconceived notions of what it was going to be like. In an environment like the White House, it is important to keep an open mind.

 "A few months ago, would I have ever guessed that I would be handing out leis to members of Congress in Hawaiian shirts at the White House Luau? No, I would not have. But those kinds of experiences made it so much better and more memorable."

Belford said she returned home with some very memorable stories to tell her family and friends. For those who are wondering if Belford ever bumped into Mr. Obama or any other important executives, it was almost a daily happening.

"You would see those kinds of people every day. I mean, they work there. It's still surreal for me, but I really feel like I worked for good people there."

You can do it too

Are you interested in an internship like this one? You can go directly to the White House internship website to receive more information. Belford also extends an offer to anyone who has an interest in public service and would like to ask questions to contact her.