Uniontown Sisters Work as Interns for Presidential Hopefuls

Article excerpt

Sisters Diana and Donna Defino of Uniontown are getting an insider's look at the workings on Capitol Hill through internships with two high-profile 2008 presidential hopefuls.

Diana and Donna, who are interning with Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama, respectively, hope these internships will help them decide if a career in politics is right for them.

The siblings are juniors at the University of Notre Dame.

"We're both political science majors, and I'm also doing two minors: one in Italian and one in classical literature," Diana said. She noted that Donna also is studying Italian.

Donna Defino was not permitted by the Obama staff to discuss her experiences for this story.

The sisters' interest in politics started while they were seniors at Laurel Highlands High School, where they graduated as co- salutatorians.

"We were both in an (advanced placement) American government class, and it was also during the time of the 2004 presidential election. So, we really talked a lot about the campaign and a lot of the issues in our class," Diana said. "That's when both of us really started becoming interested in politics, and ever since then the interest has just been growing more and more, and we decided that we would probably be happy studying political science in college.

"We both applied for a study-abroad program," Diana added. "We first thought about doing Rome. But then we heard about the Washington program, and the difference between that and the study- abroad programs is that we work at internships while going to classes. Since we were political science majors and we both are unsure about exactly what we want to do with that, we thought that going to D.C. and working at an internship would give us a good idea if we wanted to pursue careers in politics.

"So we applied for the Washington program and got accepted, and then a few months later we had a series of meetings with the program director. Every student that was accepted had to apply for eight to 10 internships."

The internships keep the girls busy with various errands and assignments that give them a firsthand look at operations at the Capitol.

"There's a lot of administrative work. We answer the phones and talk to constituents a lot. We give tours of the Capitol, and we run a lot of errands to different offices. We have to deliver letters to different congressmen and deliver things to the Capitol whenever they're in session," Diana said.

With all the media coverage surrounding the upcoming presidential election, it would seem that both Clinton's and Obama's offices would be filled with talk of the campaign, but as Diana explained, the upcoming presidential election is a topic that is off-limits in the office.

"By law the Senate office has to remain completely separated from a campaign," Diana said, "so we don't do anything involved with the campaign at all. …