Meet the Student Crowdfunding Her Unpaid Internship with Harry Reid

Jessica Padron, an incoming intern for Senator Harry Reid, is crowdfunding the $6,500 she believes it will take to pay for her four-month stint in D.C.

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Jessica Padron, an incoming intern for Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid, can't afford to do the prestigious unpaid internship on her own. So, the college student is crowdfunding the $6,500 she believes it will take to pay for her four-month stint in D.C. And while demonstrating an affinity for fundraising is a good strategy for anyone looking to get into politics, it's not clear how her new bosses will respond to the spotlight it shines on the whole fact that Harry Reid doesn't pay his interns in the first place.

Padron, who is 20, is a sophomore at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her fundraising goal would cover food, transportation, and housing for her internship, she argues, estimating just under $1,400 a month in rent. Here's her pitch:

I am the FIRST and ONLY member of my family to attend a university and hope to graduate with not only a degree, but great experiences such as this.I am a proud UNLV rebel and proud Nevadan who wants to have the chance to reach my potential. I was selected out of thousands of students across the country who applied for a chance to work with a Senator to be mentored and learn how to help shape policy. Having been recognized as a great Latina leader through my work, involvement in multiple political groups, and several classes to finish my degree in International Relations and Foreign Affairs is a great honor that I take seriously. 

The campaign could be good practice for her political aspirations: Padron would like to become a lobbyist. In an interview with the Las Vegas Sun, Padron said:

“I have a passion for lobbying. I got to experience some advocacy and participate a lot in this last legislative session,” she said. “… When I was younger I wanted to be a senator, and I said it all the time. But, as I got older and learned more about the process, I became interested in lobbying. So, what I’d like to do now is start off at the state level and continue on in politics, and run for office while also possibly going into lobbying.”

Padron adds that she'd like to see more "diversity in politics." Unpaid internships — especially in media — have been in the news pretty much all summer thanks to a court battle over their legality. That conversation has prompted some organizations to change how they compensate interns: at The Nation, interns will finally get minimum wage after a group of spring interns wrote a letter to the magazine's editors. Unpaid internships bring up a number of problems: the lack of compensation for work, the iffy legal territory interns inhabit should something go wrong, and the practical limitations they impose on the pool of applicants — not everyone can afford to pay for the experience, especially in an expensive city like D.C. or New York. Padron, who is the first in her family to go to college, is attempting to bypass that disparity even as she highlights it. If she can't raise the funds, according to her indiegogo page, she won't do the internship.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.