by Pam Young, Published December 28, 2011
Edward Patterson is going places, even though he is still in college. The Eastern Michigan University student's interest in government, along with his perseverance and drive, have led to a prestigious White House internship this semester.
Patterson, of Southfield, is one of only five Michigan students in this semester's program and the only one from Eastern Michigan to participate.
"My first reaction (when notified) was 'this isn't real'," he said. "You take a chance by just applying, but when you get the acceptance, it is almost unreal. My family was very excited and supportive, especially my mom."
The internship program provides valuable professional experience and builds leadership skills. The hands-on program is designed to mentor and cultivate today's young leaders, strengthen their understanding of the Executive Office and prepare them for future public service.
Patterson works in the Office of Presidential Correspondence, which handles official correspondence on behalf of the President. The staff receives and responds to letters that private citizens, civic organizations and elected officials send to President Obama.
"The most exciting aspect is having an inside look at how the Executive Office is run and all the people who contribute to fulfilling the mission that President Obama has laid out for the country," he said. "The great thing about this White House Internship is that there is no typical day. There are so many opportunities to take advantage of."
While the interns' individual responsibilities and tasks vary, they all participate in a long-term service project to help the surrounding community. They also attend a weekly speaker series with senior staff members and participate in off-site field trips around Washington D.C.
The program, which is unpaid, is extremely competitive. Patterson had to submit an online application, which highlighted his qualifications, character and commitment to public service, along with three letters of recommendations, two essays and his resume.
"The interns selected are well qualified in different areas and have a commitment to public service," said Patterson, who plans on teaching high school history and government. "I've always been interested in government. What better time to get involved than during the administration of a great leader?
"My advice to anyone who is thinking of applying is to do it. This is a life-changing experience. To be able to look back one day and say I worked for the President of the United States is surreal."