Charleston Student Discovers Life in DC
Friday, April 18, 2003
SPARTANBURG, SC—Life happens. That’s Wofford College senior Ben Frost’s philosophy.
Life certainly has happened for Frost, an economics major from Charleston, SC, who spent his fall 2002 semester as an intern for U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-NY, as part of the Capitol Hill Internship Program sponsored by the United Methodist College Washington Consortium, made up of nine colleges and universities. He was the first Wofford student to participate in the program, and others have since followed in his footsteps.
“I knew I wanted to do an internship that would be politically oriented,” says Frost, who had spent the summer working for a lobbying firm dealing with gay and lesbian advocacy. “There was a lot of energy that went with working for an organization that wasn’t governmental; I was burned out of that, but I wanted to be in Washington.
“I was turned on by The Hill,” he adds, so he set out looking for internships that would put him there. He contacted the offices of some South Carolina senators and Congressmen, but nothing was available. Then, it was suggested that he apply with Clinton’s office, because she had a reputation of going against the tradition of having interns only from your home state.
Through the summer, he waited for an answer. In August, just when he was about to abandon hope of getting that opportunity, the acceptance came.
Being in Clinton’s office was an “eye-opening learning experience.” His experience with the lobbying firm gave him somewhat of a leg up on other interns in the office. His primary focus of work was on education. “I was given projects researching, for example, what New York City teachers were saying. I was dealing with constituent mail and correspondence, and looking at what the constituents were saying about education; trying to see patterns of their concerns. If there were lots of concerns on one issue or another, then we’d research what Sen. Clinton’s response might be.”
In some of those cases, Frost was asked to write a memo outlining what he thought should be in the senator’s response, and he even was asked to draft the letter that she would write, something not every intern was trusted to do. “It was neat to know that what I had drafted would end up being in a letter from Sen. Clinton,” he says.
Again because of his previous Washington experience, Frost was elevated somewhat among his peers and attended some hearings on The Hill. “Once the legislative assistant trusted me, knew that I could handle it, I was asked to go to committee hearings to help represent Sen. Clinton’s office. One of those was about the College Board’s report on college accessibility and affordability.”
Frost had at least weekly contact with Clinton, either at receptions or during briefings. “She’s a brilliant, down-to-earth person. Very personable.”
Before going taking the internship with Clinton, Frost had thought he might take a year off after he graduates in May, before entering law school. He has learned, thought, that life has its own way of pushing you along.
Over three months, he compacted a lot of activity to reach his goal of going to law school. He took the LSAT and completed six applications to law school. “I was not taking a year off. I think I had been afraid of the LSATs, and I was not ready to grow up, so I was in the moment. I didn’t look further than may fall semester. The minute I decided to take the LSAT, everything fell together. I did everything in three weeks, and then I came back to Wofford.”
Back in Spartanburg, Frost got the opportunity to participate in the Dale Carnegie course for Interim thanks to a donor who offered a scholarship in the course to a Bonner Scholar.
Frost says he owes a lot to his being a Bonner Scholar. “If I hadn’t been a Bonner Scholar at Wofford, I would not have gone to DC. If I had not gone to DC, I wouldn’t have worked with that legislative assistant. Twenty other interns were opening letters, but having had the experience, having done the internship, I was more determined to go to law school so that I could practice public interest law.
“Everything makes sense now,” Frost adds.