Anisa Ashabi just completed an internship with U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) in Washington, D.C.
The 19-year-old student spent nine weeks working in the nation’s capital for the congressman, and her duties consisted of attending briefings, answering phones, talking to constituents, sorting mail and responding to emails.
“I was getting my hands on all aspects of the legislative office,” said Ashabi, a former Bainbridge Island resident and North Kitsap High School graduate.
The daughter of an Iranian immigrant, Ashabi is probably best known on Bainbridge for her kickboxing career as a teenager for the Bainbridge Boxing Club — she boxed from 2013 to 2017 — and advanced to the national level in competition for the World Kickboxing Association.
Ashabi is currently a junior who is studying communications at Washington State University, and runs an in-home personal training business on the island when she’s not in school.
Prior to landing the spring/summer internship, Ashabi applied to about 40 internships in total, in areas including sports, business and politics. She learned through Kilmer about a program called Handshake and decided she wanted to pursue it.
During her time in the U.S. capital, Ashabi even got to meet White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer in closed-door meetings, which she said was really unexpected.
She also sat in on Armed Services Committee hearings and Veterans Administration briefings, and attended Congressional Marine Day at Marine Corps Base Quantico and along with Capitol Hill lawmakers.
“At the beginning it was very surreal. The first two or so weeks I was by myself,” Ashabi said. “By the time the other interns got there, I was pretty comfortable.”
Being immersed in the day-to-day operations for a few months, she gained perspective for how politics really function.
“It’s a shame that so many people are not aware of how our government functions. Until you’re really there, you don’t understand the magnitude of how much picking up the phone and calling your representative has,” she said. “First of all, register to vote. People are complaining but not voting.”
But as somebody who fielded calls and concerns for two months in Kilmer’s 6th Congressional District office, she added: “I can say that Derek really cares.”
In terms of Ashabi’s future plans, she wants to pursue other internships in Washington, D.C. involving the Senate or the Pentagon.
Tyler Shuey is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. Tyler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.