A Letter-Perfect White House Internship


John Jay junior Crystal Ferguson is proud to be "a part of history."

Some college students yearn to spend a semester abroad, but for Crystal Ferguson, a junior at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Washington, D.C. was a better fit. That's because she's interning at the White House's Office of Presidential Correspondence.

"It's a wonderful feeling to know that I am a part of history," says Ferguson of interning during the first term of Barack Obama, the country's first African-American president. "Being part of this administration motivates me to keep pressing forward in succeeding with the goals I have set for myself."

Her main duty is to help make sure correspondence to the president is answered. She hasn't met Obama, but she did catch a glimpse of him when he arrived at the White House recently on Marine One, the presidential helicopter.

The internship is sure to help her grow, she says. "So many doors have been opened. From the time I arrived, I've been growing and developing constantly," she says. "I will never forget where I came from, but I know where I'm going and I won't stop until I get there."

Ferguson was working on Mayor Michael Bloomberg's re-election campaign in September when she noticed an ad for the White House intern program on Facebook. She knew it was highly competitive and didn't think she'd get it but decided to give it a shot. "I didn't think I could do it." says Ferguson, who's majoring in deviant behavior and social control. She's also a shooting guard on the women's basketball team and a member of the cross-country team.

"Because of the application process, I've learned to view challenges like this in a different light," she says. "I will no longer doubt what I am capable of, no matter how high the bar has been set."

Ferguson was raised by a single mother, a home-health worker, in Crown Heights, Brooklyn and moved to East New York two years ago. For high school, she got up at 6 a.m. to catch three trains to the Greater New York Academy of Seventh-day Adventists, in Woodside, Queens. Her interest in law and government drew her to John Jay. "I love my college," she says. "The diversity in our school makes it even better."

In 2007, she participated in the Manhattan-based All Stars Project, where she was part of the Development School for Youth, a leadership program in the inner city. That experience helped her land a paid summer internship with the Health Plus insurance company. She also serves as a youth choir director and assistant director of the children's choir at the East New York Seventh-day Adventist Church. Ferguson says she's been able to juggle it all and stay organized thanks to a good planner and calendar.

"I thought I was a superwoman my freshman year, trying to do way too much, and it caught up with me," she says. "[The planner] has helped me and has been my best friend ever since."

For the future, Ferguson is thinking about becoming a lawyer to defend youth in the juvenile justice system. "I want to invest my time in giving back to those like me who come from poverty-stricken neighborhoods," she says.