CHICAGO — It might just be the ultimate internship in the most famous office building in the country.
Two Chicagoans, Hyde Park native Emily Blumenthal and South Chicago's Shemiah Curry, are spending this spring working as interns in the White House.
Blumenthal, 23, graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May with a degree in urban planning. Now the Jones College Prep grad is using her degree working on the Domestic Policy Council, where she focuses on improving economic mobility.
Curry, 20, a King College Prep grad, is an elementary education major at Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C. She works in the White House's Office of Scheduling and Advance, which coordinates President Barack Obama's meetings, events and appearances.
The pair is among more than 130 other college students and recent graduates chosen to participate in the White House intern program. University of Chicago student Katherine Marsden, of Salt Lake City, was also picked to participate.
For Blumenthal, the internship is "a great fit," even though she said she wasn't very politically active on campus.
"My interest in the program really stemmed from my desire to gain more insight into the policy side of the urban issues that I am passionate about," she said in an email. "I wanted to build upon the urban planning background I developed at Illinois and explore how urban issues are addressed at the federal policy level."
While in college, she founded the U. of I. chapter of Moneythink, which provides financial literacy mentoring, she said. Understanding finances is key when trying to build strong communities, she said.
"Strong communities are those in which people have the tools to build solid lives for themselves," she said. "They are communities of choice and opportunity."
If she weren't working in the White House this spring, Curry said she'd probably be "brainstorming around how I can help alleviate some of the stress around issues on my campus as well as in the [historically black college and university] community."
Her parents, Yehiel and LaShonda Curry, are community activists, and passed that passion to their daughter. After leading a movement on campus addressing community issues, "the activist in me was born," she said.
"I've always disliked injustice, but the fact that it was taking place on my campus, with people who I know deserved better, unleashed something in me," she said.
Curry said she'd like to meet first lady Michelle Obama, in hopes of hearing "her words of wisdom about this journey to success."
Blumenthal said she's thought about wearing a Kenwood Academy T-shirt underneath her suit should she meet the president.
"My South Side pride runs deep," she said.