The Center for Progressive Leadership and the Progressive Money Gap

When I was a senior in high school, some sort of strange, misplaced ambition made me want to get a job, or maybe go to college, in Washington DC. I think I sent in a resume to Fattah and Brady, and investigated a couple nonprofits. But, my little bubble burst pretty quickly when I realized that all of the available jobs were unpaid.

I was raised in a happy, relaxed middle-class family, with all the privileges that followed. But, there was zero chance that my family could afford to pay for me to live in Washington for a summer without making money. Instead, I stayed in Philly and worked at a Rec Department camp at Awbury Arboretum.

My experience with DC was not unique, nor has much changed. If progressive kids want to work for an org in DC at some point in college, they better be able to support themselves, because they probably are not getting paid. And so, the kids who work in DC, including the ones that stay involved, are not exactly representative of progressive people around the Country. (The conservative movement, of course, makes sure their young people are taken care of, many times paying young people, providing housing, etc.) The story, though not quite as stark, has a lot of lessons for Philly, as well, where many progressive organizations, with little money themselves, expect young people to work for free.

For a while, there was a lot of optimism that progressives understood how underfunded youth programs and unpaid internships hurt our cause. Big donors seemed to realize how badly we were underfunding youth organizing, and started to put funds towards it. But, as Alex and Mike Connery note, much of that is gone, and even organizations trying to mobilize young voters for the 2008 election are being starved for funds, as Obama's campaign sends signals that everything must go through them.

Thankfully, on at least a small scale, the Center for Progressive Leadership, an organization with many Philly ties, is filling a piece of the void. No, they aren’t magically fixing all that ails the progressive movement, but they are taking about 40 young people- mostly women and people of color- from around the Country, and setting them up in DC in… paid! positions.

CPL's New Leaders Program helps diverse college students and other young leaders get paid internships and entry-level positions at progressive organizations in order to help jump-start life-long careers in progressive politics.

CPL’s 2008 New Leaders come from over 25 different states and have worked on issues on their campuses and in their communities ranging from immigration reform to interfaith dialogue to access to higher education to LGBT equality to environmental justice.

It sounds like a pretty cool program, and you can check out the stories of each person at the CPL website. CPL is an organization with a lot of ties to Philly and PA. I know a bunch of readers of this blog actually went through their training. And, they just hired… Haile Johnston as their PA chief. So, they are not exactly strangers around here.

Of course, their program is focused in DC. And, it would be nice to have that same sort of thing here, right- helping progressive young people find jobs here in Philly and SE Pa? Well, apparently that is coming, too. Stay tuned.

I am glad you wrote this

I can't wait to hear about what is in the works for Phila.

If anyone's interested, I think one of the most needed projects is a real big concerted campaign to shift some foundation and other dollars to fund organizing positions. I'd love to see people with interest/resources/experience start getting together on that.

State Legislature Has Paid Internships

The state legislature has paid internships in Harrisburg and in the various district offices. They usually run for 12 weeks, but can be extended in length under some circumstances.

Interested graduate or undergraduate students should apply to the state legislators of their choice.

SEIU Healthcare PA

To put in a plug for my own organization--SEIU Healthcare PA has both paid, summer internships and for-credit (but unpaid) school-year internships.

And if anyone's looking to do some election work in State College to get Obama elected, drop me a line...

Kati, are you in State College?

I'll pass on your info to friends of mine there, in case they want to help out.

D.C. requires your blood

If there is anyone on here thinking about working DC, it is totally true. To get your start in our nation's Capitol, you have two options: intern for free or temp. You have to give DC blood before it will give you anything. It's just part of life there.

Though, I gotta say, it's on Liberal freaking town, Dan, there is plenty of our ilk there.

The best way for the college-bound to make it happen is to do some sort of Semester-in-Washington program. That way, you can put it all on your student loans (and you were going to put that semester on loans anyway, right?) rather than just figure out how to survive for a summer without income.

I agree, it sort of sucks, but that's how it is for now. As a beltway veteran, I just thought I'd offer a little hope. If you really want to live in DC (and, to be fair, I can't imagine a better place to spend your early 20s -- young people rule DC after 6 PM), you can make it happen.

This Too Will Pass, for the guts in your cerebrum.

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