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White House intern found hours long but atmosphere inspiring

Intern Christina Ford, 21, poses on the South Lawn of the White House on the Fourth of July while working an event. At UF, Ford oversaw the registration of 9,690 student voters.

Courtesy of Christina Ford

Intern Christina Ford, 21, poses on the South Lawn of the White House on the Fourth of July while working an event. At UF, Ford oversaw the registration of 9,690 student voters.

This summer, Christina Ford of Safety Harbor prepared correspondence for Michelle Obama's signature, processed the first lady's scheduling declines, and selected sample letters for her to read and respond to. The 21-year-old University of Florida student even participated in weekly roundtable discussions with senior White House staff.

Not exactly the cliched gofer internships that some college students must endure.

"That was something I was surprised about because there was this perception that all the internship would be was coffee-getting and errand-running, but they gave me a lot of responsibility and I think that's true of all the interns," said Ford during a phone interview from UF.

There were 147 White House interns who worked in a variety of offices over the summer. Ford was one of 12 who worked in the Office of the First Lady.

"Before I came to the White House, I thought it would be very chaotic with everyone running around trying to get stuff done," Ford said. "But it's not at all. It's a very well-oiled machine with everyone very dedicated to their jobs and helping the president and staff.

"People there work very hard," she said. "They come early, eat lunch at their desks and stay late."

So how does one get a coveted White House internship, perhaps the most prestigious in the field of politics?

Ford, a political science and economics major, had to submit a resume, two essays (one of which was a policy memo) and two letters of recommendation, but she said she believes the last election had a lot to do with her selection.

As co-chairman of Gators for Obama, Ford oversaw the registration of a whopping 9,690 student voters — more than any other university in the state.

And she helped turn out 92 percent of student voters focused on by the Obama campaign. It was the highest percentage of any college campus in the nation, she said.

Helping to get President Barack Obama re-elected may have helped, but so did stellar grades. Ford was valedictorian of the class of 2011 at Clearwater Central Catholic High and now carries a 3.92 grade point average out of a possible 4.0 in the UF honors program.

She has volunteered with the American Red Cross and serves as chief financial officer of the Florida College Democrats.

Top that off with the title of deputy state director of the Presidential Inaugural Committee and it's easy to see how the selection committee was impressed.

Ford, who was raised in a Republican household, said it was Obama's stance on issues pertinent to women and students that motivated her to support him.

"I joined the College Democrats when I first came to the University of Florida," she said. "My dad was initially not very happy with me but now he is very proud."

The unpaid internship lasted from May 28 to Aug. 9 and Ford said she put in about 50 hours a week. Students must pay for their own room and board.

Over the summer, Ford only had a few close encounters with Michelle Obama but found her to be "genuinely warm and as sweet as she can be."

She also met President Obama, who gave her a fist bump, and Bo, the first dog, who shared some wet kisses.

She departed feeling very upbeat.

"I think I left even more optimistic," she said, "about the good that government can do when passionate and dedicated people are working on behalf of the American people."

Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at treeves@tampabay.com.

White House intern found hours long but atmosphere inspiring 08/30/13 [Last modified: Friday, August 30, 2013 6:21pm]
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