KIPP Prep student works on Capitol Hill as part of fellowship

Chentese Stewart-Garner says the experience made her more interested in policy.

Sam Haut

Chentese Stewart-Garner outside the U.S. Capitol building

For the fourth year in a row, Knowledge is Power Program charter schools’ Federal Policy Fellowship sent eight KIPP alumni to work as interns this summer on Capitol Hill.

One of them was Chentese Stewart-Garner, a graduate of KIPP Philadelphia Preparatory Academy in North Philadelphia.

The program offers fellows resources to cover living and business expenses for the summer including housing as a cohort in the dorms at George Washington University, a Metrocard to ride public transportation, business attire, a bi-monthly paycheck, and field lessons.

Students accepted into the program must submit at least eight applications, with at least three of them being to members of Congress from  their home area. KIPP staffers help fellows refine their resumes and prepare for interviews on Capitol Hill.

Stewart-Garner worked on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee under Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington state. She graduated from Gettysburg College in May with a major in sociology and a minor education and at the beginning of a three-year teaching residency program sponsored by KIPP in one of their D.C. schools.

Stewart-Garner felt her experience in the program changed her career path and made her more interested in public policy.

“I had never imagined myself going into policy before, just because I wasn’t really exposed to it when I was younger,” Stewart-Garner said. “This really being my first exposure to that world and it’s a way I can make a tangible impact on the lives of students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, which is what my overall career goal in life is, to really work with those communities and make sure that they have the opportunities to be successful.”

Stewart-Garner, who grew up in North Philadelphia, said she was in Senator Murray’s office during protests in the building by opponents to President Trump’s immigration policy.

“There was a protest that was held on Capitol Hill, I think most of them were mothers, they were called the ‘Women Disobey Protest’ and they were protesting the family separation [of children from their parents] at the borders,” Stewart-Garner said. “They all came into the building I was working in, and they started cheering and chanting and disrupting what was happening in the building. Different Senators started to come out of their offices, like Senator Warren was there, and cheered the women on.”

The KIPP internship program is something Stewart-Garner feels is especially helpful for students who are not as well off and would not normally be able to live in D.C.

“It’s a really good opportunity for students who come from low-income backgrounds to participate in that civic engagement part of it, because without the program I wouldn’t have been able to afford a summer in D.C.,” Stewart-Garner said. “They give you a paycheck every week, so you’re able to enjoy more of the social scene to and network with people, like I made a lot of really good connections with former Hill staffers and people who work in different sectors within education in D.C., so I think overall it’s a great opportunity for students who might not even think of going into policy or don’t have the means to do it.”