|Dione Dallas in Washington, D.C.|
Seventeen and Interning in Our Nation’s Capitol
From May 31 to August 7, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community member and Young River People’s Council President Dione Dallas, 18, was a full-time congressional intern for Congressman David Schweikert (R-AZ, 6th District) working at the Cannon House Office Building, located south of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Dallas is the daughter of SRPMIC Council Member Michael Dallas and Berlene Dallas.
The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community is part of Rep. Schweikert’s district. Every year, Schweikert and his team look for motivated, detail-oriented individuals who display a strong work ethic and have interest in the legislative processes to become interns.
This year, Dallas was personally recommended by SRPMIC President Delbert Ray, Sr. during a meeting with Schweikert. Dallas went through a very extensive interview process and was selected along with four other interns from Wisconsin, North Carolina, California and Virginia. Dallas was the only one who got to intern for a congressman from her district.
Dallas packed her bags for the 69-day internship in one of the busiest and most secured places in the country. She was a walk away from the White House, the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Capitol and some of our nation’s best museums.
“I couldn’t believe that I was across the street from where all the decisions for our nation are made,” said Dallas. “I couldn’t believe that I was walking past all these major landmarks every day on my way to work and on my way home. It was an incredible feeling. I would love to go back again someday. That’s the atmosphere I want to be in.”
Dallas’ first day was June 1. She recalls arriving 15 minutes early and “jumping right in.”
“I felt overdressed,” Dallas said, laughing. “I didn’t know that we were on an out-of-session day, so I arrived in my business outfit. But I learned to check the calendar after that, so I knew ahead of time.”
On her first day, Dallas was introduced to the other interns. She was ecstatic to mention that she was from the SRPMIC and that Schweikert was awaiting her arrival.
“He came up to me, and we talked for a bit about our Community and he was excited to meet me. I even met his wife (Joyce Schweikert). [He] asked me how old I was, and his wife told him, ‘You never ask a lady her age.’ They’re both really nice, great people,” said Dallas.
Dallas’ typical workdays were from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on days when Congress was not in session and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on in-session days. At times she sat at the front desk, where she was the first face a visitor would see upon entering the Cannon House Office Building. Her duties were similar to those of an assistant: deliver newspapers to the staff, answer phone calls, lead one- and two-hour tours of the Capitol, and help Congressional staffers with research.
Throughout the following weeks, Dallas became the go-to coffee-maker for Schweikert and his constituents.
“He likes cappuccino, so they showed me how to use the cappuccino machine and I would be the one to make the coffee and cappuccinos during his meetings,” said Dallas.
Aside from coffee, which one might say is essential while living in the nation’s capital, Dallas had to learn about the U.S. Capitol and all that it entailed for her daily tours. She recalls seeing everyone walking everywhere, the city running nonstop, and just so many people day in and day out. She also recalls having to constantly go through security checkpoints just to get from one place to another.
“I never even imagined myself living and interning in Washington, D.C. I’m glad I went. I did it before college and I got my feet wet. I built a foundation for my future. I wanted to know what scene to get into for college. I’m very thankful to have represented the Community and the Youth Council,” said Dallas.
When asked what she learned while interning, Dallas responded with, “I learned about so many different bills. People from all over the world would call and ask about a specific bill and what Schweikert’s stance was on the bill. If I didn’t know about that specific bill, I would research it, and this is the fastest way I learned,” recalled Dallas.
Dallas left for her internship at age 17 and came home at age 18, an adult. She spent her birthday in D.C., but she was OK with that. “Anything is possible. Age doesn’t define you,” said Dallas, who plans to go to college, get her degree and then go back to D.C.
As president of the YRPC, Dallas mentioned that they have much to do and she would like to provide the Youth Council more structure. She would also like to share what she learned during her internship with the Youth Council.
“The No Texting While Driving ordinance was our last project. But we have something big coming up soon,” added Dallas.
“I was used to being away for the summer, so I’m used to being away from family. My mother came out and we did a lot of exploring a week after my internship was over. We did a Segway tour of the National Mall—we started from the Capitol, to the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the Iwo Jima Memorial in Virginia. I got to show her how to use the Metro. The main transportation in D.C. is your car, and it’s kind of confusing because you have to have a parking permit to park your car anywhere, or you use the bike share, walk or take the Metro,” said Dallas.
If you or anyone you know is interested in interning for Congressman Schweikert, visit https://schweikert.house.gov/services/internships.