UH Hilo business major Lara Hughes writes about “My summer internship at the 2016 Democratic National Convention”

Internships are the first steps in training young professionals who have the potential to build the world’s communities of tomorrow.

By Lara Hughes.

This is the first in a series written by UH Hilo students about their 2016 summer internship experiences.

Cohort gathered for a group photo, about 50 interns. It's a diverse group of people.
Seated front-and-center with the 2016 Democratic National Convention interns, June 1, 2016, Philadelphia, PA.

June 29, 2016
Philadelphia, PA

I was raised on a sailboat in the Pacific Ocean and later grew up running around barefoot in the Ka‘ū desert on Hawai‘i Island. Living in a house perched on an active volcano and climbing through tropical jungles in search of hundred-foot waterfalls is just something that came with the territory.

Hawai‘i Island is a vast melting pot of diversity, not just geographically but also culturally and ethnically. In fact, the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, where I am currently a senior majoring in business administration and interning in the Office of the Chancellor, is one of the most ethnically diverse campuses in the country.

Fitting then, that this island girl—a fourth generation kama‘āina (born in Hawai‘i) and great-granddaughter of plantation immigrants from Korea—would wind up interning this summer at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. The DNC internship program is 60 percent women and 60 percent ethnic minority groups. Needless to say, I feel right at home, minus the waterfalls.

Why internships?

At UH Hilo, a lot of emphasis is placed on internships. Why internships? In a word, the future, and in the case of the Democratic National Convention, it is a future not just for the interns who were lucky enough to snag one of the 50 coveted spots, but also for coming generations as the leaders and platforms of tomorrow are being shaped.

My experience here at the DNC is an amazing opportunity for skill building in time management, interdepartmental networking, on-the-spot problem solving, and absolute action. The chance to work with seasoned experts, past White House staff, and rising leaders is the icing on the cake. I am fortunate enough to be a part of a team at the DNC tasked with volunteer coordination, and with roughly 16,000 volunteers signed into our system, the pressure is on… and I’m loving every minute of it.

Lara Hughes and Marian Martez stand for photo. Lara has her arm around Marian's shoulders.
With Marian Martez, a volunteer I helped find a position for at the convention.

As each day flies by, I find myself relying on the different skill sets I have developed over the years through my travels and my education, and there are a few that stand out to me in my role with the DNC.

First, the transition of moving from an island town to an East Coast city was made more fluid by my past travel experiences. After graduating with an associate’s degree from Hawai‘i Community College’s West Hawai‘i campus, I lived in Italy for seven years. From there I traveled across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. This has influenced my appreciation for cultural differences and shaped my ability to navigate diverse societies and locales with respect and confidence.

The second contributing factor to my work here has been my internship experience with the UH Hilo chancellor’s office, where I work in public information primarily writing for the website UH Hilo Stories. Developing stories, contacting sources, interviewing professionals, writing informative articles—all under tight deadlines—serve as a strong foundation for my work with the DNC: quick and effective communication, relationship building, and being able to hit the ground running.

Lara Hughes on the convention floor, turned to the camera with Hillary Clinton on the stage and on the big screen in the background.
Sitting with the Hawai‘i delegation during Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech for the nomination.

Further, the chancellor’s office internship brought me in contact with someone who has become an important mentor to me. My editor at UH Hilo Stories encouraged me to apply for the DNC summer internship, helped me with my résumé, gives me professional advice along the way, and reminds me to stay positive when things are challenging.

Also helping me in my work with the DNC is a surprising skill I’ve discovered in myself: an ability to appreciate and learn from mistakes. We all make mistakes, but I’ve discovered it is what we do afterward that defines us and perhaps, more importantly, determines who we will become one day. Taking a difficult experience and turning it into something positive nurtures an ability to move forward and do better for ourselves, and helping those around us is exponentially multiplied.

It is the moving forward that answers the question, “Why internships?” Internships are the first steps in training young professionals who have the potential to build the world’s communities of tomorrow. Being here in Philadelphia this summer, gaining more experience than I ever thought possible in a short period of time, I feel more inspired and excited about moving forward into the future than ever before.

Originally published on Lara Hughes’s blog

Lara Hughes (senior, business administration) received a $3.5K scholarship from the Democratic National Convention Committee for her internship at the convention, and half way through was promoted to a paid consultant. At UH Hilo, she is a public information intern in the Office of the Chancellor. 

Also from this series on internships:

ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi: Hawaiian language student & scholar Kamalani Johnson writes about his apprenticeship

UH Hilo students Erin Busch and Tim Zimmerman write about their internships in China

UH Hilo business & communication student Christine Presiados: “I was determined to get this internship”

UH Hilo pre-nursing student Morgan Tate writes about her summer internship


-UH Hilo Stories