DETROIT TO DC: A Summer Lived to the Fullest

Written by Joe Starrs, Director – Institute on Political Journalism

When Elijah Baker arrived in Washington last summer to participate in the 2016 Institute on Political Journalism, he had one thought in mind: To get the most out of his experience in our nation’s capital. As a junior at Wayne State University in Detroit “Eli” had taken advantage of the opportunities that came his way in his classes and at various internships. Arriving for the first time in Washington, Eli jumped in with both feet.

The TFAS staff took notice of Eli as he began chronicling his experience with a video blog and regular updates on social media. Whether it was on tour of the Washington Post headquarters, a visit to the floor of the House of Representatives or weekend trip to New York City, Eli immersed himself in the experience and made sure he got it all down on video and often in print. At his internship with Radio America, Eli produced a long form video package on the cost of home ownership. Through a partnership with Radio America and the University of Delaware his project is now part of content offered by the University’ Center for Economic Education & Entrepreneurship.eli-1

At the end of his DC summer, Eli was awarded the Institute on Political Journalism’s Directors Award. This award is given to a student who embraces every aspect of the program with enthusiasm and commitment.

We caught up with Eli this week to ask him a bit more about his DC internship experience.

What surprised you most about Washington D.C.?
The most surprising thing about my time in DC was seeing everyone in suits 24/7. At the parks, people were super dressy. On the weekends, people were still dressed up. I honestly forgot what it felt like to wear jogging pants and a t-shirt on a daily basis. It sounds so minimal, but seeing everyone dressed up–especially those who look like me–made me feel important and think differently on how I carry myself.


Eli hams it up with his mentor Jim Forbes, Communications Director, Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL)

What did you learn about yourself?
The biggest thing I learned myself is that I can achieve anything I set my mind to. I didn’t allow fear to stop me from getting the most out of my TFAS experience. I refused to have a mediocre experience. Without God, I wouldn’t have been bold enough to do things I never thought was imaginable had I not stepped outside of my comfort zone. Fear did not stop me from fulfilling my purpose in DC.

Did you have a favorite neighborhood or monument in DC?
Every time I went to church on Sunday, I always sat and ate breakfast at Denny’s after service. I never ate at Denny’s before, but I fell in love with their omelets. So, that kept me coming back for more. I would go alone because it was far away from the business of downtown and I was able to spend time with myself.


Eli does NYC for the weekend.

What advice would you give to a student thinking about applying to DC Internships?
If you’re thinking about TFAS, simply remember to remain true to who you are. Don’t feel like you have to be like somebody else. At the end of the day, you were created for a purpose and nobody else can do what you were destined to be.  

For more information on our summer and semester programs, visit

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