By Daniel Heimpel
The event, which draws stars from entertainment and D.C.’s political elite, always fills the cavernous Ronald Reagan Building on Pennsylvania Avenue, providing a suitable stage for some real heroes.
One of these was Amnoni Myers, a 26-year-old member of CCAI’s 2014 Foster Youth Internship
Program (FYI). I remember her taking the stage, somewhere in between U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), to tell the crowd about the FYI program.
For Amnoni, CCAI’s marquee program meant interning for U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and contributing to the increasingly influential policy report that the foster youth interns produce every summer. In that report, Amnoni drew from a robust body of research sparked by the 1998 Adverse Childhood Experiences Study to deliver a compelling case for increased efforts to make the foster care system “trauma-informed.”
On stage at the Reagan Building, Amnoni described her experience and told the crowd that she had applied for an internship at the White House. Whoops and applause rose from the hundred or more tables tightly spaced across the floor.
Last week, Amnoni stopped by my office in San Francisco, with some good news in hand. In January, she will move back to D.C. to start that White House internship with the Domestic Policy Council.
Instead of brimming with pride, Amnoni was sanguine about the opportunity. Having come up in foster care, many of her peers and extended family never had the chance at an internship at the White House, so Amnoni said she learned to be “humble” about her achievements.
Where some would be prone to boast, Amnoni was simply purposeful. This summer, she said, Grassley’s staff was intent on moving some legislation around her trauma training proposal.
“I hope it doesn’t get forgotten,” she said.
To make sure her proposal is not, she will be taking meetings on the Hill when she returns in the new year. She pointed out that the people setting policy for systems-involved children often do not have the experience of living through those systems. She sees the marriage of experience with her increasing policy expertise as a strength she can take to the Capital.
Our conversation meandered through current proposals for reforming federal child welfare financing, her feelings about the FYI program and much broader issues of race: Michael Brown, Eric Garner and police brutality. Throughout the conversation, it was clear I was talking to the kind of person who, with gentle conviction, can move the world towards a better place.
Now here comes the irony. This person, likely better suited to go to the White House than many who have come before her, does not have the money to support herself for the duration of an unpaid internship. At the pinnacle of the American meritocracy is the reality that you need wealthy parents to subsidize the nation’s most prestigious internship.
The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute has taken it upon itself to fill that role for Amnoni. Amnoni figures she needs $8,500 to cover her expenses, a low-ball estimate in a city flush with money.
You can DONATE here. Be sure to add Amnoni Myers in the dedication line.
I just did it, and I encourage you to do the same.
Daniel Heimpel is the founder of Fostering Media Connections and the publisher of The Chronicle of Social Change.