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Gift Cards, Workshops Empower Hill Climbers

While most of Capitol Hill’s professional community contentedly coasts through summer, the overachieving collegians attending the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s Foster Youth Internship will be kicking their career search into overdrive.

This summer marks the 10-year anniversary of CCAI’s internship placement program, a 10-week session that provides transitioning foster youths the opportunity to work on Capitol Hill and educate Members of Congress about the needs of those still in the adoption system. This year’s welcome lunch takes place today at Matchbox on Barracks Row, while the final Congressional briefing is scheduled for July 31.

The group got a much-needed shot in the arm last year via the creation of the Sara Start Fund, a partner-driven initiative that provides material support and mentors for the summer interns.

As part of their training, this year’s CCAI interns will be privy to voluntary Saturday workshops covering everything from sartorial conundrums (Macy’s — Pentagon City) and financial literacy (United States Senate Federal Credit Union). They will receive restaurant gift cards preloaded by the Matchbox Food Group — passes that proved invaluable last year.

“Understanding the business lunch is also part of professional development,” SSF founder Lindsay Ellenbogen said. She noted that being able to pick up the check allows interns the flexibility to invite superiors and other Hill vets out for invaluable one-on-one time.

“None of this is a handout. They’ve earned all the tools everybody else already has on Capitol Hill,” Ellenbogen stressed.

CCAI Executive Director Kathleen Strottman, a one-time aide in the office of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) — which is where she first met Ellenbogen — praised everyone who had pitched in over the past decade, particularly host lawmakers. Returning Members include: Landrieu, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), as well as Reps. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Jim McDermott (D-Wash.). Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) joined the program this year.

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