For the last three months, Wilmette-native Lea Prohov has had an up-close view of national government as one of 144 White House interns.
Prohov, who recently earned her journalism degree from Indiana University, interned in the White House’s Office of Digital Strategy, helping President Barack Obama engage with the American public, and allowing them to engage with him.
The White House website describes the internship as a hands-on experience that provides "young leaders from all across the nation an opportunity to develop their leadership skills and gain exposure to the public service sector"
On Dec. 14, the internship ended, and a few weeks ago, Prohov opened up to Patch about her time as a White House intern.
Patch: How did you hear about the position and what made you want to apply for it?
Prohov: I have known about the White House Internship Program for a long time, but I was never really interested in pursuing a political career. Near the end of my senior year, I was in Washington for a policy conference with several other students from Indiana University. It was my first real exposure to national politics up close and personal, and I was immediately enthralled with the experience. One of the other students on the trip was a former White House intern and recommended I apply for the White House Internship Program. He recounted moments from his internship for me, and guaranteed the experience would open my eyes to a career in public service. So far, this internship has done just that and so much more.
Patch: What are your duties as a White House intern?
Prohov: I am interning in the Office of Digital Strategy. The Office communicates the President’s message through online channels, including Whitehouse.gov, White House social media networks, and email. The Office of Digital Strategy ensures information is open and accessible to the public, and creates opportunity for the American people to engage with the President and administration online regularly. I play a supporting role in all of these objectives.
Patch: How does the position differ from the expectations you had before you began?
Prohov: My only expectation was that I was going to learn a lot. Now looking retrospectively, learning a lot would be an understatement. This internship offers incredible responsibility, mentorship, and most importantly exposure. One of my favorite parts about the White House Internship Program is the speaker series. Every week, a White House official speaks to the internship class for about an hour, opening up the majority of the session for questions. As a 22 year old just starting my professional career, meeting the people who work behind the scenes of the President every day, and hearing career advice has been a true privilege and inspiration.
Patch: Did you have to take a full semester off from school to accept the internship?
Prohov: I am a recent graduate from Indiana University-Bloomington. I attained my degree in journalism with a specialization in public relations, and minors in marketing and entrepreneurship.
Patch: Has the internship altered your worldview or taught you any important life lessons? If so, what have you learned?
Prohov: Sitting in a front row seat to the national stage – and most times world stage – has truly opened my eyes to the issues facing our country and to understanding which ones are most important. Working in the Office of Digital Strategy has given me a unique outlook on how new technology can play an integral role in creating solutions, connecting communities, and effectively engage the government and the public. I have learned a significant amount during my time at the White House, but the most important lesson I have taken away is that a career in public service is a meaningful one, and an important contribution to our country.