Kayla Davidson may only be in her sophomore year at Penn State, but she already understands the trials and tribulations that come with being an elected official.
The Langhorne native and Neshaminy High School alum is spending her spring semester in Washington, D.C. interning for Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick as part of the elite program, The Fund for American Studies’ Capital Semester on Leadership + the American Presidency.
Fourteen students hailing from across the country as well as Poland, Latvia and Estonia were selected to participate in this experience, which commenced in January and runs through the end of April.
They’re taking classes at George Mason University, interning at various organizations for 30 hours each week, and exploring future career paths in politics, public service and the nonprofit sector. In their spare time, they can adventure through the city and enjoy behind-the-scenes tours of Capitol Hill.
For Davidson, who is studying political science and psychology, landing an opportunity like the Capital Semester is a dream come true.
“I always had an interest in government and politics,” she said.
In her junior year at Neshaminy, Davidson completed the week-long Keystone Girls State program, where she learned about the inner workings of state government and how to pen her own bills and legislation. This was through the American Legion Auxiliary and held at Shippensburg University. She also interned for state Rep. Frank Farry, which strengthened her interest further.
At Penn State, Davidson served as the chief of staff to the Altoona campus’ student government. During her tenure, she was informed of the Capital Semester. It was the perfect next step.
As the end of Davidson’s residency in Washington, D.C. quickly approaches, she’s looking back with pride.
“I’m learning new things every day. Once I graduate college, I’ll have the experience of being an intern at Capitol Hill under my belt,” Davidson said. “I have a better chance of getting a job offer down here if I ever want to work on the Hill after graduation.”
Her duties at Fitzpatrick’s office include attending committee meetings that the congressman isn’t able to and writing detailed memos for his staff. She also answers phone calls from Fitzpatrick’s constituents. Whether the person on the other end is providing good or bad feedback, Davidson records it all.
She understands that criticism is something that comes with the job. And it’s something she’s prepared to encounter if and when she becomes an elected official.
“One of the things I want to do is make change. Politics are going down a deep slope that’s not for the good. I just think we need a different approach to politics,” Davidson said. “I feel like when people run for offices, they need to do what’s best for their people rather than their party, and I feel sometimes politicians forget that.”
The Capital Semester also opened Davidson’s eyes to what she described as the “hustle and bustle” of a congressional office.
“Especially when they’re in session, it can get pretty hectic. There’s so many ins and outs to how congressmen and women run their offices, how they get stuff done and the way that they represent their constituents,” she said. “There’s just a lot that goes into it. Having a lot of people in the office is typical, and having to try and work around each other and working with each other, it gets to be a lot but it’s definitely interesting to learn. Every little bit that you do as an intern helps them.”
Davidson urged others seeking a political path to break free of their comfort zone. Though she was afraid to leave Pennsylvania and temporarily say “goodbye” to her friends, she knew the Capital Semester was a once-in-a-lifetime offer. Three months later, Davidson is able to proudly reflect on how much she learned, and how she was able to “network like crazy.”
“I think that everyone should take every opportunity they get,” she said.
Upon graduation in two years, Davidson’s first goal is to attend law school and become a family lawyer. She wishes to help children and families through divorces and separations. Afterward, Langhorne residents may just see a familiar name on their ballot.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org