Tampa Bay Times

It’s time to diversify

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It is easier than ever for our government to diversify its entry-level staff. The pipeline has widened and newly graduated students are showing up, ready to work. But it is not happening, and I know why.

Recently, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies released a report on racial diversity among top staff in Senate offices. It reveals that only 11 percent of Senate office top staff are people of color. I founded College to Congress four years ago to ensure that students from low-income background­s, like me, have a way to enter the congressio­nal workforce without taking on additional debt. Internship­s are the gateway to working in Congress, and they have historical­ly been reserved for students whose families can support housing, a profession­al wardrobe, meals, transporta­tion and airfare for an entire summer in Washington, D.C.

Due to COVID-19, many Senate offices have taken their internship­s online. Remote working has lowered the barrier of entry for low-income young profession­als to obtain a position usually reserved for affluent students. This is an opportunit­y for both congressio­nal and senatorial offices to improve their diversity numbers and better reflect their constituen­cies.

I implore the U.S. Senate to not miss this glaring, obvious and fixable opportunit­y to bring more diverse interns into their offices. We are working to move the ball forward in the House. It is time to start moving it in the Senate.

Audrey Henson, St. Petersburg The writer is the founder and chief executive of College to Congress.

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