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Cape native scores second congressional internship

By CJ HADDAD - | May 5, 2022

Jonathan Reuss

A Cape Coral native is making a name for himself in Washington D.C. where he has his eyes set on a future in politics.

Jonathan Reuss, 20, will spend the 2022 summer semester in the nation’s capital interning with the office of Rep. Byron Donalds, who represents Florida’s 19th congressional district.

Reuss, a political science major at Florida Gulf Coast University, actually got his start in D.C. last summer at the BIED Society non-partisan think tank with The Washington Center. From there, Reuss worked his way up and was selected this past spring semester to intern with the office of Rep. Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin.

“It’s definitely a great place to start for politics,” Reuss said. “I got to learn valuable skills.”

During his time in D.C., Reuss was able to take in-person courses at George Mason University and, this summer semester, will take part in classes at George Washington University. The North Fort Myers High School grad is on track to secure his bachelor’s this summer (thanks to credit earned in high school) and pursue his master’s this August at Arizona State University.

During his time at the BIED Society, Reuss collaborated with other interns to create articles and attended conferences. With Grothman, he got to see the ins and outs of everyday life of a congressman, answered phones, composed newsletters, and performed other tasks. He even was able to lead a group of students on a tour of the Capitol. Reuss said he expects to continue the same learning experience with Donalds starting at the end of the month.

“I think the most shocking skill that I learned was doing customer service,” Reuss said, adding that those skills play an important role in politics. “I was talking to people on the phones, learned many new skills, got great experiences, and I think the best thing was expanding my network. I now have a lot of connections in D.C.”

Reuss said he hopes the connections he has made give him a leg up when it’s time to step into the political realm on his own behalf. Having that name recognition among those in the nation’s capital could prove to be a massive benefit for a young upstart looking to make his mark.

“I want to be a politician when I’m older, and there are people in D.C. that already know my name,” Reuss said.

In fact, it was because of his work with Grothman and the work he’s already put in that led him to Donalds’ office. Reuss said he’s excited to be able to work alongside a politician who represents a district he grew up in. With his experience, Reuss will be helping other interns learn the ropes and guide them along in their journey.

“It’s going to be more personal,” Reuss said. “It would be great to take students from FGCU or North Fort Myers and show them around.”

So, why did Reuss decide to choose a path to politics? “I feel like (being a politician) is a way to make a difference in the world,” he said. “I started out as a math major and I really loved it and I wanted to become a math teacher. I felt that I was going to only help out a couple of hundred students, while being a politician, I could help out millions. I chose political science to be able to help more people.”

When asked in what area he hopes to make the biggest impact if he were to become elected to office in the future, it was no surprise that education was the first platform that came to mind.

“I think right off the bat is to help out with education,” Reuss said. “I love working at schools, that’s always fun. Another big thing that comes to mind is national security and foreign affairs, especially with what’s going on in Russia. Once I get more into things during the summer, I’ll get to know what exactly I would like to do policy wise.”

Reuss was able to obtain his internship with Grothman through The Fund for American Studies’ Capital Semester on International Affairs and Public Policy.

TFAS Capital Semester Programs invite outstanding students from across the country and around the world to spend a semester in the nation’s capital. Their academic internship programs are available each fall and spring semester, offering campus leaders a comprehensive experience that combines academic courses for credit, internships, housing, site briefings, guest lectures, a professional development series and mentorship program. He was one of 10 or so from around the world to be accepted.

His most memorable moment during his congressional internship was attending in-person briefing with experts where he would take notes.

“Going in person was amazing,” Reuss said. “They treated me like I was a full-time staffer. I’m excited to go back.”

His advice to young adults looking to enter the political world: “Be prepared financially. It was a struggle at times when the internship is unpaid. It was tough.”

Reuss’ internship with Donalds starts May 23. He hopes to procure a full-time job from his experience. He said if that doesn’t turn out, he’d love to return to Southwest Florida and begin his career in government locally in Cape Coral, or in Arizona.

–Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj