Greetings! My name is Marcus Tweedy, and I’m a rising senior Political Science major at Skidmore. Academically, I split my time within my field between issues in domestic and international politics, and this summer I had the opportunity to do an internship in each! My experiences with the International Rescue Committee’s new Denver office and with Joe Neguse’s 2018 campaign for Congress contrasted each other nicely and taught me a great deal about two different industries within the public sector that I could find myself working in after graduation.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is a refugee resettlement agency that helps people fleeing their countries due to crises of various sorts to rebuild their lives and regain control of their circumstances. IRC works in over 40 countries and 20 U.S. cities, but the Denver office is their newest within the U.S. My role in this as a “Youth Programs Intern” called upon me to observe their current programs (which consist mainly of one affordable, grant-funded YMCA summer camp) and figure out how to both improve those programs and find new opportunities for our kids for the school year and summer. At camp, I had a perspective that was completely new to me – while I’ve worked with kids a bunch before, I was never involved in directly overseeing developing programming, and never had such a “big picture view” on what can make a camp program great. While I didn’t have authority per se over what happened at camp this summer, I was able to give input on what was and wasn’t ideal about this year’s program that hopefully was valuable and will make sure our clients next year have a great experience.
In order to address some of the gaps in this year’s program, I was tasked with creating a “Youth Resource Fair”, to which we invited all of our YMCA camp families, all of our clients with kids, and over 20 local non-profits that run services or activities. Eight of those organizations (including a service-learning program, a ballet academy, a digital literacy program, a slacklining crew, and Denver Public Library) were able to join us and meet our families. Perhaps more importantly, all of them expressed interest in partnering with us in the future to provide programming for our kids. What’s most important to me, and that I can walk away feeling the proudest of, is that kids from a highly marginalized and excluded population might have opportunities similar to those ones I had growing up – to step out of their comfort zones, try new things, build new skills, make new friends, and grow as people.
I also spent the month of June on the campaign trail rallying Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District to support Joe Neguse’s campaign, and the following two months continuing to build his brand and set the campaign up for success in the November midterm election. A 34-year-old son of refugees from Eritrea, Joe Neguse has the chance to not only be one of the youngest members of Congress, but to become Colorado’s first African American congressman.
To make it to this point, Joe’s campaign had to run a strong field operation (which I took part in) to win a competitive June primary. After returning to Colorado from Skidmore, I spent any given day either door-to-door canvassing, attending community events with other volunteers (such as Denver Pridefest or the Boulder County Fair), or accompanying Joe at our campaign meet & greets. While many justifiably fear the influence of attack ads funded by big money special interests, in-person retail politics still remains the best way to build connections with and turn out voters (door-to-door canvassing, in fact, remains several times more effective than phone banking and other methods.) To counter a bitter and divisive online campaign from our primary opponent, we personally shared Joe’s story and his plans to bring progressive change to Colorado and resist Donald Trump’s administration to thousands of voters all over the district. Not that we didn’t play a media game of our own – here’s a letter to the editor I wrote to my hometown newspaper: http://www.dailycamera.com/letters/ci_31953881/marcus-tweedy-neguse-will-be-an-advocate-congress. Because of the connections we built with our district, we got to celebrate Joe’s nearly 2-to-1 primary victory (66% to 34%).
To prepare for the general election, we’re redoubling our efforts to connect with voters and set Joe up for success as a first-term representative. While our district has gone to Democrats consistently since 1975, we take November seriously and are still committed to reaching and representing every resident. As part of this effort, I got to help review and expand on our policy platform by researching local publications from all of the major towns in our district and compiling summaries of issues that came up consistently in each. Because of what I helped to do, Joe will better represent a geographically large and diverse district (that includes over six counties with varying populations and terrains). Additionally, we are still continuing to reach out to voters by recruiting them to meet & greets during Joe’s end of summer “district tour.”
Thanks to these experiences, I will go forward with a stronger sense of how to communicate with others, how organizations behave, and how to achieve an organization’s goals strategically. I’m proud of the work I did this summer, and I’m grateful that Skidmore made it possible.