Brandon Gosselin didn’t think he would work in the White House this early in his career, but this summer he found himself in the Oval Office.
“I had the opportunity to serve the people, as an intern in one of the most recognizable places on Earth,” Gosselin told VOA Student Union.
The 2017 graduate of Freed-Hardeman University, a private Christian college in Henderson, Tennessee, spent the summer months working in the Office of Presidential Correspondence.
“It was a humbling experience to be interning at the White House. But it’s also a blessing to be walking the halls at one of the most historic places on all of Earth,” the Oklahoma native said.
Staff members in the Office of Presidential Correspondence read, categorize and file letters, email and telephone messages from the public to President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump. They draft replies, answer questions, provide copies of presidential statements and proclamations and offer advice to those requesting general assistance from the federal government.
In addition, the White House website says, interns conduct research, attend meetings, write memos and help staff public events.
Gosselin admitted some of it was “typical intern work” — tedious, at times. However, he said serving his country kept him motivated.
“You have the ability to make an impact in this world, and interning at the White House is just a steppingstone to get there,” the young graduate said.
White House internships are highly competitive; people from across the U.S. apply. Applicants must complete a questionnaire, write an essay and provide letters of recommendation.
“Applicants are selected based on their demonstrated commitment to public service, leadership in their community and commitment to the Trump administration,” according to WhiteHouse.org.
They face questions such as “Why are you committed to supporting President Donald J. Trump’s administration?” and “Who is your favorite president, and why?” along with queries about their extracurricular activities, community service experience and character.
The White House selected three groups of interns each year, for the autumn, spring and summer months. This year’s summer interns, the first batch chosen entirely by Trump administration officials, drew attention when they posed for photos with the president at the executive mansion last month.
The young workers’ smiles were sparkling and attractive, but what caught the public eye was their makeup: all but two of the 115 interns were white, and 70 percent of them were male (81 men, 34 women).
Previous groups of White House interns also have been mostly men and mostly white, and sometimes mostly members of elite Ivy League universities, too. But the news media found something “particularly jarring” about the class of Trump interns. The HuffPost blog listed population statistics and other evidence of American diversity and concluded: Those being groomed as the future of our government should look like our country. And they don’t.”
Asked about this year’s candidates, a White House spokesperson told Student Union: “The White House Internship Program seeks to attract applicants of all backgrounds who are interested in serving their country through public service.”
Gosselin, now a veteran intern, had some advice for those seeking to follow his path: “To really set yourself apart, you have to make sure you stand out above everyone else. Be able to tell a story in a way where you can bring out your strengths. You can bring out your accomplishments in high school and especially in college that set you apart.”
Be sure to avoid typographical errors and misspellings, Gosselin cautioned: “There is zero room for error in your entire application. Make sure that everything is clean, crisp and ready to go.”
The Oklahoma native is a summa cum laude graduate of Freed-Hardeman University, with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
“It’s easy to get caught up in this world, since ... you’re chasing after a certain professional career,” Gosselin said. “But it’s important to realize that we all have a purpose in life and that purpose is greater than ourselves, and we have to make a decision not to serve ourselves but to serve our fellow man.”
Applications for entry to the spring 2018 class of White House interns must be received by Sept. 8 at 11:59 p.m. EDT. Successful applicants will start work Jan. 10 and end their assignments April 27.
Those chosen generally will be enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program or expect to gain an undergraduate or graduate degree within two years. Veterans of the U.S. armed forces who have high school diplomas may apply. All must be at least 18 years old and have U.S. citizenship.
The official website WhiteHouse.gov notes: “It is essential ... that applicants are dedicated to the ideals and mission of the White House.”