Interning at NOW An Uncommon Experience

by Susannah Northart, NOW Intern

The advantages of being an intern at NOW are many. In addition to gaining valuable work experience, interns leave NOW with greater knowledge of feminist history, women's rights issues, political advocacy and membership organizations.

Working at NOW provides an excellent example of how a grassroots organization works at the national level. But since the NOW Action Center is a relatively small office, the environment is definitely not one where interns get lost in the shuffle or do nothing but filing all day.

The people who work at the Action Center make interns feel welcome and vital to the work NOW does. Interns are put to work on real projects with real significance. Just this semester, our intern group has worked closely with staff members organizing the Women of Color and Allies Summit, producing the National NOW Times, planning Political Action Committee trainings and fundraisers, updating the NOW Web site, developing chapter organizing tools and much more.

Being an intern at NOW provides additional opportunities outside the office. Living in the nation's capital, interns can take advantage of monuments, national parks and museums, including the Smithsonian. The city alone provides for an incomparable learning experience -- the many different neighborhoods of D.C. are especially fun.

Of course, working so close to the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court means plenty of opportunities to participate in protests, demonstrations, lobbying and other exciting actions. For example, on Jan. 22, 1998, Capital City NOW, the local chapter in Washington, D.C., held a rally and vigil to commemorate the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The experience of attending this event in front of the Supreme Court was particularly stirring because it was the 25th anniversary of the court's decision which made abortion legal and effected so many women. Being a NOW intern means being part of a movement, not just an office. It's great to be among the people demanding change for women's lives.

Not that interns don't also discover the realities of working in an office. Working in a fast-paced environment includes rushing to meet deadlines, pitching in on last-minute projects and being extremely flexible.

My internship at NOW will count among the most important and interesting times of my life. When I came to NOW, I had certain ideas about what I wanted to gain from my internship, including learning more about the structure and history of NOW and seeing what a grassroots organization is really like. I wanted to contribute all my time and energy to this organization instead of a weekend here and there, as I had since I became a member. But I could not even begin to anticipate all that I would be gaining from the experience.

Probably the best part is the people I met, the other interns. The bond we have formed is impossible to explain. Soon we are going home, bringing our strengthened commitment to women s rights and NOW to our own communities. We are already making plans to see each other again at the Women's Rights Convention in Rochester, N.Y., this summer.

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