One staffer’s story of living on the Hill

A job as a Capitol Hill staffer can be both exhilarating and intimidating.

Adjusting to life on the Hill is a bit like navigating through heavy traffic on a bicycle. A new staffer juggles the challenges of a new job, a new environment and a new city all at once. And learning D.C. politics as well as office politics is daunting enough. But then there’s after-hours. Where do you eat? Where do you shop? Just trying to drive D.C.’s traffic circles can be enough to send some people packing.

Fortunately for Sheikisha Jenkins, D.C. traffic was the only thing that tripped her up when she began her staff position in September. A resident of Greenbelt, Md., and an AP biology teacher at Bowie High School in Maryland, Jenkins had the enviable advantage of already being familiar with the area.

“This has been a huge transition,” said Jenkins. “But one thing I didn’t have to get used to is D.C.”

She admits she’s still adapting to driving in the city, though, preferring to commute on the Metro.

Working in D.C. is a lot different than visiting as a tourist. Of course, she was already familiar with what the city has to offer by way of museums and entertainment, but Jenkins says her job allows her to get to know the city in new and different ways.

Selected as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow, Jenkins jumped at the chance to work in Rep. Mike Honda’s (D-Calif.) office on education initiatives.

Passionate about teaching, Jenkins said she is thrilled to be involved in shaping education policy, as well as the opportunity to work on Honda’s Educational Opportunity and Equity Commission.

“There’s a lot that’s going on in education on the Hill,” said Jenkins.

Her goal is to help close the achievement gap, Jenkins said: “Working to achieve that has been very exciting.”

Jenkins said she was pleased to find that Honda’s dedication to education parallels her own. As a former teacher, she said, he values the experience and dedication that she brings with her to the office, and she said his office has been warm and welcoming.

Finding common interests with fellow staffers hasn’t proven to be a challenge for Jenkins, either.

“We’re all foodies,” Jenkins said. “We love to eat.”

Jenkins and her fellow staffers trade recipes and food ideas. When anyone finds a great restaurant in the area they’re quick to clue their co-workers in to the new gem, and the office is full of freshly baked goodies to share and trade. One employee in particular is known for her delicious baked goods — Jenkins says always she regrets not working on the days they grace the office.

Jenkins said she plans to use her fellowship year working to further educational programs for others. The opportunity to meet experts in the field and gain insight into the political process is proving invaluable for her graduate paper, she said.

“I never saw myself on the Hill. This was something I never thought I’d do, but I really feel at home in Honda’s office,” she said.