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Walker, Rep. Alma Adams Renew Successful Internship Program to Increase Diversity and Engagement on Capitol Hill Through HBCUs

June 13, 2018
Press Release
Walker and Adams welcome Tony Watlington, Jr. and Jameia Booker as the 3rd Class of HBCU Congressional Interns.

Pictured above from left to right: Rep. Walker, Tony Watlington, Jr., Jameia Booker, and Rep. Adams.

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  U.S. Representative Mark Walker (R-N.C.) and U.S. Representative Alma Adams (D-N.C.) welcomed their third class of Congressional Bipartisan Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Caucus interns to Washington, D.C. this week. The internship, launched in 2016, is aimed at increasing diversity and engagement on Capitol Hill through HBCUs.

The lack of diversity among congressional staff has been a well-documented issue. A recent study found that African-Americans make up less than one percent of top Senate staffers, despite representing 13 percent of the U.S. population. Reps. Walker and Adams are taking action to change this course. 
The HBCU Bipartisan Congressional Internship program is the first of its kind, featuring two interns, who will each spend a four-week period in the office of both a Republican and a Democrat.

The interns in the program will also have the opportunity to meet with key players on Capitol Hill, including Members of Congress and senior staff. They will also have to meet performance standards that ensure a quality, educational experience, including attending hearings and briefings, writing letters, completing projects, and writing an essay about their time and what they learned.

Earlier this year, Vashti Hinton, a participant from the inaugural 2016 class, was the first to be hired as a full-time staff member on Capitol Hill. Hinton works for U.S. Representative Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.).

“Congresswoman Adams and I started this initiative to increase diversity and HBCU engagement on Capitol Hill, while creating opportunities and valuable job-training for the students of our nation’s more than 100 HBCUs,” Walker said. “Working together for the betterment of our students, this internship program has yielded success, with one of the programs first participants, Vashti, gaining employment in a congressional office after graduating. I am thrilled to have Tony and Jameia spending time in our office and Adams’s office this summer, and look forward to continuing advocating on behalf of the HBCU community.”

“This third class of HBCU interns is a testament to our commitment to fighting for equal opportunity and fixing the diversity problem on Capitol Hill,” Adams said. “HBCUs contribute more than $14 billion dollars annually to our economy and have provided pathways of opportunity for millions of Americans from varied backgrounds. These institutions are essential to workforce diversity, especially here in Washington. We should all be working to ensure that their students and their graduates have access to Capitol Hill. We will not produce policies that address the issues impacting all Americans if we don’t have diverse policy makers. This internship is a necessary step to ensuring Congress looks like the people it serves.”

“Programs like this give me great hope for the future,” Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said. “Tackling the challenges we face requires perspectives from the best and the brightest. I applaud the leadership of Congresswoman Adams and Congressman Walker and wish Tony and Jameia the best as they take part in this opportunity and represent their schools, as well as the HBCU community, on Capitol Hill.”

“The voices of young people are vital to the work of the Congress and the success of our democracy,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said. “We have no greater responsibility than to create opportunities for young people to use their talent to affect positive change in the world.  Congresswoman Adams and Congressman Walker’s leadership on their HBCU Internship initiative strengthens our shared commitment to building a better future for our children, and is to be commended.”

This summer’s interns are Tony Watlington, Jr., a rising senior at NC A&T State University, and Jameia Booker, a rising senior at Johnson C. Smith University. Watlington is an economics major and a Student Government Association Senator. Booker is a criminology major and pre-law minor who is serving as student body president during the 2018-2019 school year. Both are interested in attending law school following graduation. The program will provide both students with a bipartisan opportunity to intern on Capitol Hill and to network with senior members of staff on both sides of the aisle; exposing HBCU students to federal advocacy careers and building a pipeline of qualified young professionals to increase diversity on Capitol Hill.