As part of her introduction to the inner workings of the American system of representative government, Miranda Huber found herself at a west suburban candy factory one day this summer, buying 50 pounds of sweets.
Huber, a senior political science major, spent the summer as an intern in the Villa Park office of Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton. Huber’s varied duties in the office included writing news summaries for the time-pressed senator, processing mail and doing the sorts of odd jobs that have always been the province of summer interns. So when Cullerton agreed to appear in Carol Stream’s Fourth of July parade, Huber was given the task of finding candy for the senator and his staff to toss to parade-goers. For Huber, it was all part of a useful hands-on political education.
“It was an amazing opportunity,” said Huber of the internship. “So many people have only a superficial sense of how government works. This was a chance for me to see it in action.”
Huber’s experience in Cullerton’s office led to more opportunities. Late in the summer, she took a position with DuPage Victory, a political action committee working to elect Democrats in traditionally Republican DuPage County. Huber worked on the campaign of Suzy Glowiak, who was running for an Illinois State Senate seat from DuPage’s 24th District.
Huber’s Election Day started at 2:30 a.m., when she rose to begin placing “Suzy for Senate” signs in front of polling places around the western suburbs. She spent the hours just after sunup monitoring polls to see that they opened on time. After four hours of classes at Elmhurst, she was back on the job, working the phone bank for Glowiak, reminding constituents to vote. And when the polls finally closed, Huber was part of the team monitoring the ballot collection process. Though Glowiak lost her bid for the Senate seat, Huber said the Election Day was one to remember.
“It was quite the day,” she said.
Huber’s experience grew out of a conversation she had with Mark Draper, assistant director of the Niebuhr Center for Faith and Action. Draper knew about Huber’s passion for politics and had already helped her land internships with a public defender’s office and with an organization advocating for low-wage workers. He suggested she also consider an internship in the office of an elected official. After a few phone calls, Huber was meeting for lunch with Cullerton’s chief of staff. She soon signed on for the summer internship.
Huber’s stint in the Senator’s office began with ethics training. She said her work left her impressed with the variety of ways legislators serve their constituents.
“It was eye opening to see all the things a state senator does,” Huber said. “From hosting job fairs to helping constituents with questions about government services. It was an education for me.”
She even learned something from watching the Senate President at the Fourth of July Parade.
“It’s amazing the energy a public official needs. Everyone wants a little of your time, everyone wants to talk to you,” she said. “I was getting tired just watching him at the parade.”
Huber said she could see herself running for office one day. But given what she learned on her internship, could she match her former boss’s zest for meeting constituents?
“I think so, after a few cups of coffee,” she laughed.
Huber thanked the staff at the Niebuhr Center for helping to provide her with valuable real-world experience.
“I’m so grateful to everyone there,” she said. “They really are about putting faith into action.“