It’s quite a journey for Emma Rae Phillips from attending high school in St. Helens and graduating in 2019 from Scappoose High School.
Phillips has just completed an internship at the White House in Washington, D.C.
“I landed this once-in-a-lifetime internship after a rigorous application and interview process that took several months,” Philips told the Chronicle. “I am very proud to have made it this far on my own hard work and merit, as opposed to relying on connections or an important last name like many others have done.”
Phillips said her internship projects at the White House Office of Cabinet Affairs included:
- Creating a database, charts, and graphs to track media effectiveness and gain insights on topics relevant to the American people for senior Administration personnel.
- Compiling various tracking documents on logistics, Administration accomplishments, and future policy goals.
- Assisting in a variety of office tasks, including attending regular staff meetings, conducting general research, drafting materials for supervisors, and setting up for senior staff presentations and agency meetings.
Phillips said entering such a fast-paced environment without much prior experience was definitely a challenge, but ultimately paid off.
“This internship was extremely rewarding and I couldn’t have imagined a better way to spend my summer,” Phillips said. “Between the people I met and the friends I made, there really isn’t anything that would have made this a more memorable experience! One of my favorite parts of the internship was having the opportunity to volunteer at the Salute to America 4th of July Celebration and spend my favorite holiday on the South Lawn of the White House.”
Phillips said her internship experience gave her an important take-away.
“The most important lesson I took away from this internship was that it’s not who you know, it’s what they think of you,” she said. “As a young person, it’s very easy to get caught up in networking with everyone we come in contact with. But at the end of the day, those connections mean nothing if the people around you have a mediocre view of you.”
Phillips said she worked hard to be the most diligent, reliable, and resourceful intern she could be.
“And my supervisors recognized this in me,” she said. “The higher quality of work I produced, the more important of tasks I was given, teaching me that even in politics, respect and trust are earned, not given.”
The Chronicle asked Phillips if she aspired a career in politics.
“No, I don’t believe ‘politician’ should be a career,” she said. “In my opinion, our elected officials should be real Americans with real livelihoods, not congressmen and women who spend their entire lives in those positions without passing any meaningful legislation.”
However, Phillips also said she wouldn’t count out running for an elected office someday and that she would love to serve her country in that way once she has an established career.
“Within this area you have ‘politics people’ and ‘policy people,’ I am definitely the latter,” Phillips said. “I enjoy the researching, brainstorming, and drafting that goes into formulating policy before it even reaches the point of being debated or becoming legislation. I hope to use future internships to continue to explore career pathways. While I am not sure what exactly the future holds for me, I know that God will put me somewhere where I can utilize the skills I have been blessed with.”
Phillips will return briefly to St. Helens next week and then return to Rhode Island to resume studies at Brown University, where she is majoring in Economics and Public Policy.
Phillips also had advice for local students.
“Keep chasing after the things that light your fire,” she said. “As a 6th generation Columbia County girl, I never imagined I would leave to an Ivy League school or land an internship for the Executive Office of the President, but with hard work, dedication, and a whole lot of faith, anything is possible. Life is way too short to not make the most of every opportunity and set high aspirations. And who knows, you might just end up at the White House.”