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  P R E S S  R E L E A S E

NH political society helps interns in D.C.
Special to The Union Leader

WASHINGTON -- Every year thousands of students come to the nation's capital as interns. But many find they cannot afford to take advantage of all the city has to offer: Doing the grunt work pays plenty in enrichment but nothing in gold.

That's where the New Hampshire State Society comes in.

After years of "hibernation," the historic organization has come back to life, driven by Granite Staters residing in and around the capital. In addition to sponsoring social events, contributing to charities and providing a means for relocated New Hampshire residents to meet and share information, the society also offers educational stipends for students doing internships in Washington.

Society president Matt Vaughan, who was an intern for former Rep. Bill Zeliff, R-N.H., in 1993, said most Washington internships are unpaid.

"Many members of the society got their start on the Hill and all were working for little or no money," said Vaughan, now a Washington lobbyist for BAE Systems North America, which manufactures military equipment.

Any student who graduated from a New Hampshire high school or attends one of the state's colleges or universities is eligible for one of the group's grants. So far, the stipends have ranged from $750 to $2,500 for a semester, and vary depending on how many hours students work at their internships.

The group aims to help students who might not otherwise be able to afford a Washington experience and convince "students who don't even consider interning to rethink that decision," Vaughan said.

This semester, three New Hampshire college students received stipends to help support them while they do internships in Washington.

The society raises much of its money from a golf tournament that it sponsors every April. About 85 people participated in the event last year, helping the society raise $25,000 for student stipends and charitable donations. The group also seeks contributions from New Hampshire businesses and colleges.

Stephen Lacey, a sophomore in journalism at Franklin Pierce College and a native of Keene, interns for Talk Radio News Service, which syndicates its reports to subscribers across the country including College Media News, a group of 500 college radio stations.

Lacey said coming to Washington was "absolutely necessary" for his studies. He added that he "would still have been able to come without the stipend, but it's a good chunk of change in my wallet and it's helped me out so much."

The society, first created at least a half century ago as a social club, has 300 members in Washington and New Hampshire. Vaughan said the organization's newfound growth was motivated by the desire to help New Hampshire students get the kind of experience in Washington that they cannot obtain at home.

Society member Taylor Caswell, a former staff member to Zeliff, said the stipends offer a way to "keep kids who intern connected to the state because we'd love to have them back someday." Caswell, a Hollis resident who lobbies in Washington and New Hampshire for Keyspan Energy, added that funding the students is a "great philanthropic opportunity for New Hampshire businesses."

Stephanie Cate, a junior in political science at Saint Anselm College, said she's "going broke already." An intern in the office which handles legal cases for the District of Columbia, Cate said the stipend subsidizes her subway fare and "some of the cost of living because it's so much more expensive down here."

Alexander Matiz, a junior in business management at Daniel Webster College, is an intern at the Federal Aviation Administration. He said it "would have been a lot more difficult" to live in Washington without the society's help.

Although many students are strapped for cash, the society has received few requests for stipends: Only 13 students have received awards since 1999.

This spring, the society had only six applicants and funded three. But last summer, all eight applicants received money, according to Vaughan.

Francis Bouchard, a lobbyist for an insurance company in Washington and a society member, said the stipends are an "exciting kind of expansion" of the organization's activities.

Bouchard was the society's president in the mid-1990s. Unlike many of the group's members, he didn't have the opportunity to do an internship in DC. "I think anything that makes it easier to spend some time in this city would have appealed to me when I was a student."

The society also participates in Washington's annual Cherry Blossom Festival and each year a young woman is selected to represent New Hampshire in the festival.

Christiana Laventure, a legislative correspondent for Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H., and the society's secretary, was last year's Cherry Blossom princess.

Laventure, a native of Bow, interned in the office of Sen. Judd Gregg, R.-N.H., in 2000.

"Once I got exposed to D.C., I knew I wanted to come back down here because I'd seen politics up close and personal," she said.

"If it does nothing but allow one person to be exposed to Washington and how it works, then the program is worth it," Bouchard said.

Jenna Wolf is an intern with the Boston University Washington News Service


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