'Because you can't really turn down a congresswoman'

To keep the door open for unexpected opportunities, 20-year-old Jamie Laurie avoids planning too far into the future. And it’s a good thing, because otherwise she never would have become an intern for Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio).

“Honestly, if you asked me a year ago if this was in my plan, I would have said no,” Laurie said. “I would have said, ‘Oh, that sounds like fun,’ and then probably forgotten to turn in the paperwork.”

From Westchester, Ohio, Laurie met Schmidt last year as a student lobbyist for the national Epilepsy Foundation. Her sister was diagnosed with epilepsy about five years ago, and Laurie quickly got involved in local and national efforts to raise awareness and eliminate stereotypes about the condition. She met with Schmidt to discuss the issue, and Schmidt offered her an internship on the spot.

“I said yes, because you can’t really turn down a congresswoman,” she said.

A sophomore at Ohio State University, Laurie is majoring in journalism but might switch to political science. She said she is awed by her historic surroundings each morning when she comes into work and is grateful to be working in the nation’s capital. Although her duties may seem bland for someone with her enthusiasm, Laurie looks on the bright side.

“The most difficult part at first was realizing that what I was going to be doing was mostly busywork,” she said. “But over time I really came to appreciate the fact that yes, I was stuffing envelopes, but I was doing it for a congresswoman.”

Last summer, Laurie worked two jobs — as a temp at a Toyota parts distribution center and as a cashier at a grocery store — from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., five days a week, to pay for her internship.

A self-described people-person, Laurie lives alone in a basement but spends many evenings with the family upstairs, often helping their two small children get ready for bed. “I usually get free dinner out of it, which is very nice,” she said. “Something I miss a lot is real food, instead of Ramen and Easy-Mac.”

Laurie said she feels like a tourist when she sees members she recognizes. She once bumped into House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and spoke with him about a bill he co-sponsored that dealt with epilepsy. She would like to meet first lady Laura Bush because she said she thinks she is poised and respectable. She also has a thing for presidential contender Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), but can’t really explain it.

“I don’t know why, but I love John McCain,” she said. “I registered to vote so I could vote for him. … I just find him sort of endearing, almost. I don’t really know. I just — I like John McCain.”