On November 11, the HBCU National Center will hold a ribbon cutting blocks from the U.S. Capitol. The center has been established by Jacqueline “Jackie” Lewis, who is also the Founder of WISH, LLC, which provides housing to interns in Washington, DC. The ceremony will feature Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) who is Chair of the Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) Caucus in Congress.
Washington, D.C. is one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. to live in and has rents that can be north of $2,000 per month. Internships on Capitol Hill are increasingly limited to those who are wealthy enough to afford to live in Washington and work for free.
Lewis has previously gained national recognition for her educational work as a federal appointee of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. She served on the President’s Intergovernmental Advisory Council on Education in both Administrations. Lewis, along with her late husband, Robert, created a way to provide safe affordable housing in Washington, DC after learning there were few properties available. They started buying vacant properties in Washington, D.C. that would house students at a price no more than back on their college campus.
Because of the tight economics of interning in a federal office, particularly for Black college students, some have suggested that interns should be paid. Most internships in Congress went unpaid for several decades but after a great deal of lobbying in 2018 interns on Capitol Hill now earn at least $1,800 per month.