Testimonial by 2017 ILF Fellow Sophia He

By Sophia He

June 5th. 7:45 AM. Day one. Stay calm. Don’t be nervous. Don’t be late. Straighten your shirt. How on earth did that yogurt stain get on your pants? Note to self: you are not coordinated enough to get dressed before breakfast. Try better tomorrow.

Those thoughts played themselves through my mind as I took the first of many bus rides to work. That morning would be the first time I passed by our nation’s capital since Inauguration Day. I felt a sense of insecurity, but as is the case with every administration change, there were also many new opportunities for progress.

As I arrived and sat down to wait for my supervisor to pick up the interns, I watched and listened to the steps and voices that echoed around me in the lobby of the Department of Commerce. I remember finding the building chilly and somewhat closed off. Little did I know that I’d come to call it a second home after just a few days in the office.

I interned with the Office of Legislative, Education, and International Affairs in the Minority Business Development Agency within the Department of Commerce. While the name of my office sounds incredibly winding and verbose, my day to day experiences within the workplace could not be farther from that. Because our agency is relatively small, so our community is incredibly tight knit and very supportive of not only the agency’s mission, but of each other as well.

With a new administration comes many adjustments. MBDA has learned of potentially drastic changes for the future, but you would not be able to detect that from the heart and enthusiasm the whole agency exudes on a day to day basis. In all honesty, I was very skeptical dipping my toes into government work, but this summer has shown me that it is perseverance and positivity that keeps things moving forward even when the future is uncertain for the agency.

Through observing ILF and all of the employees at MBDA, I’ve come to learn the importance and nature of public service. The people of both organizations do not work for recognition or accolades. They work because the notion of moving forward and bettering the lives of those in need is rewarding enough in and of itself. Their actions connected me to the Jesuit values so often echoed at my university of being a person for others. That phrase was no longer foreign to me – it became a calling.

Without my mentors and colleagues, I would not be nearly as inspired to serve and advocate as I am today. I’d like to thank Mr. Edward Dong, Ms. Caroline Martinez-Carranza, Ms. Patricia Tomczysyzn, Ms. Bridget Gonzales, ILF, and my friends here for giving me the opportunity to work alongside the men and women who devote themselves so diligently behind the scenes for the benefit of minorities and all Americans. The people you touch are in a better place because of your efforts. Thank you.