ETCETERA - Student parlays internship with Sen. Murray's office

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‘I have found the job market in Walla Walla difficult for a college student seeking summer employment and felt I was ready for not only a change in scenery but also something that will contribute to my future career," College Place resident Nikki Brueggeman emailed.

For her summer job, the Washington State University junior history major certainly thought outside the box. She's currently interning in Sen. Patty Murray's Washington, D.C., office. From May 12-Aug. 13, Nikki is assisting with administrative work and correspondence to the public as well as other projects.

Her responsibilities entail research, writing and editing responses to constituent letters and requests; attending hearings and briefings in specific legislative areas; carrying out projects in specific issue areas and such tasks as fielding constituents' calls and leading constituent tours of the U.S. Capitol.

Finding housing for her stay in the nation's capital was cause for some stress. She even turned to social networking for help. "... in desperation I updated my status on Facebook and admitted how frustrated I was with the situation. Housing in D.C. ranges from $500-$2,000 a month and as a college student from a middle class family I did not have that type of funding available.

"Within minutes of updating my status I had friends updating their own statuses asking if someone knew of a place in D.C. where I could stay. It was a huge comfort and I had a couple of leads but it was through my mother (Dodie Brueggeman of College Place) contacting a chapter of the National Federation for The Blind in D.C. that I was offered a home free of charge. I am very lucky and thankful for the kindness of this family opening their home to me."

A 2008 alumna of Walla Walla Valley Academy, Nikki is WSU Black Student Union's incoming vice president for the 2011-2012 academic year. She is also active in the Black Women's Caucus, Japan Club, Multicultural Center community and a Women's Transit volunteer.

While in the other Washington, she hopes to take any spare time she can carve out for in-depth visits to the Smithsonian Institution museums.

"As a history major, that will be a wonderful pastime for me. I will also have the opportunity to (rendezvous with) friends who live on the East Coast that I met during my time abroad in Japan."

She's very excited to spend the Fourth of July in Washington and is studying for the Graduate Record Examinations, required for entrance into a graduate program.

"I hope that I can do my best in assisting Sen. Murray and the citizens of Washington state," Nikki wrote. "I also feel a big responsibility to the students of Washington State University as their representation to the senator. As a black female college student I hope I can represent the issues that affect not only my race and gender but also the demographic (college students) I have lived in for the past three years."

She felt it was a long shot when she applied for the internship in March. "But Sen. Murray's office sees something special in me and that gives me faith I will do well."

She submitted a letter of interest, her resume, two letters of recommendation and a writing sample. After a phone interview with an internship coordinator, she was offered and promptly accepted a position for the summer.

She plans to apply for the McNair Program, which aids students from low-income or first-generation families and students from underrepresented groups in graduate education to achieve doctorate degrees.

If accepted, she will have research and class work to complete for the program separate from other school work.

Nikki is loving her collegiate experience. "There are the bad days along with the good, especially when mid-terms and finals come around, but I would not give up my college years for anything in the world. I am also really happy for the programs at WSU, which have pushed me to doing my best."

Once she's achieved her bachelor's degree, she aims to begin graduate work in international relations with Asia. She's looking at several schools for this, including George Washington University in Washington, D.C., which she wants to visit while there. She also wants to apply for the Fulbright Scholar Program, which sends American students oversees. "With the Fulbright I would conduct research in Japan on Japanese foreign immigration policy. Then she'd like work in international relations for a few years to better understand the field, make connections and develop a career path. "My ultimate goal is to gain a Ph.D. in international relations and work with the State Department, either in D.C. or abroad at an embassy."

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Gearing up for next summer, members of the Walla Walla High School Class of 1982 will hold their first 30-year reunion planning session. Anyone who wants to get involved can join them at 6:30 p.m. June 15 at Mill Creek Brew Pub, 11 S. Palouse St., said Greg Ferrel.

"We're starting to plan the event and hoping to see who's interested in getting this thing kick-started and going," Greg said. For additional details, contact him at ferrelg@hughes.net or Tammy Tucker at tuckertk@live.com.

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Virginia Gutierrez with Walla Walla County Rural Library said Friends of the Burbank Community Library had a great afternoon May 19 at the Columbia School District barbecue.

A George T. Welch Grant the Friends received recently from Baker Boyer Bank is enabling the group to collaborate with CSD development preschool to provide a Dolly Parton Imagination Library for young children in Burbank.

"The barbecue was a great opportunity to enroll children for the program," Virginia said. The program is free to preschool-age children from birth to age 5 who live in the Columbia School District.

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library mails a new children's book to each enrolled child every month until their fifth birthday, Virginia said. "The group has registered about 30 children and will need to close the registration at 50 due to funds." Sunrise Rotary, CDL Pacific Grain and Friends of the Burbank Library have given money to the project. To enroll a child or make a donation, email chelsea.taylor@csd400.org.

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Candice Churchill is undeterred by the snow, sleet and rain she endures en route to an education. She has often encountered inclement weather on her daily commute from La Grande to Walla Walla Community College, said Dan Norton, Candice's collision repair instructor. Her persistence has paid off. She's set to graduate from the WWCC auto collision program in June.

Candice ranks at the top of her class and has been on the president's list every quarter of her enrollment. She's been involved in the Skills USA club, a national leadership organization where she won the state of Washington auto refinishing competition. She earned a spot to compete at the national level last summer and placed 15th in the nation, Dan said.

She was named a student speaker for the workforce division for WWCC's commencement ceremony this June. She just received two separate scholarships.

"In the past there have been women enrolled in the program but few have completed it. Candice is the exception to this and she is an exceptional student. She is the most advanced student that I have.

"She came to us through a worker retraining program and had the desire to learn all she can and develop the skills necessary to be a productive technician in this industry, a woman in a non-traditional role. Certainly and she has excelled."

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at annieeveland@wwub.com or afternoons at 526-8313.

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