Posted March 11, 2011
Public Service Leads to White House Internship
No comments Dave Rasdal/SourceMedia Group News

IOWA CITY — Shannon Woods worked her tail off for four months, didn’t make a dime and had to buy her own lunch.

But, given the chance to do it again, she would.

You see, thousands apply and only 140 are chosen to become White House interns each session.

“We were all interested in serving others,” says Shannon, 23. “Not getting rich.”

She helped at the 24-hour switchboard, mostly from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

She helped with the fall garden tour; showed visitors through the White House’s East Wing.

She made decorations for the White House Christmas tree and watched as it was lit.

“It was cold, really cold, but totally worth it,” Shannon says.

While volunteering for a year with AmeriCorps at the Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore in Hiawatha, she learned about the internship

“I kind of stumbled onto it on my computer. I’m not overly political. It was more for the non-profit, public service.”

One resume, two essays and three letters of recommendation later, she was off to join a new class of interns Sept. 7.

“When you’re starting on a day with 139 other people, you’re not the only one who’s nervous,” she laughs.

But previous volunteer experience paid off, as did a supervisor who had been an intern herself.

At 18, when she began classes at the International Academy of Design and Technology in Chicago, this Burlington native had no clue she’d wind up at the White House. But halfway through college Shannon changed “hats,” so to speak, from fashion to merchandising management, from profit to non-profit.

Joining the ReStore in 2009 after graduation gave her experience merchandising new and recycled building materials. The White House internship became another feather in her cap.

“I didn’t meet the president,” she says. “He came and took a picture with us. I shook the First Lady’s hand. I petted Bo (the White House dog). That was a lot of fun.”

While Shannon wrote in a journal from time-to-time, she often preferred to sleep or tour the city.

“I loved D.C., having the weekends to go to the museums and stumble around,” she says. But, she learned, “Living in large cities makes me realize I’m more interested in rural issues.”

So now, as she looks for a job, this Hawkeye State native knows where she’d like home to be.

“I just want to work for a cause that I believe in.” she says. “I’d like to stay in Iowa, but I haven’t found anything I want or that I’m particularly qualified for. It’ll work itself out.”

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