Miss Simpson Goes to Washington

This is the second in an occasional series on Penn Manor alumni who lead interesting lives.

By James Frese –

What happens after school?

Students come and go, some succeed and others fail. People drop out of high school early, some graduate and go to college. There are many different paths to take once high school is over.

For Megan Simpson, a Penn Manor honors graduate of 2004, she figured she was going to major in elementary education at Penn State University after high school.

Simpson, at right, participating in the Easter Egg Hunt at the White House.

But the best laid plans…sometimes change.

Change is something that can be positive, and in her case, it definitely was a positive change during her senior year of college.

“I knew that I wanted to work in a political field,” Simpson stated in an email, “although I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do. I also knew that I wanted to use my degrees in advertising and public relations but that I wanted to make a positive difference in the world too.”

Simpson was attracted by the Presidential race that was developing at the time.

“The candidates for President were gearing up and building ground teams in New Hampshire for the primary,” responded Simpson. “I researched each candidate and decided to apply for a communications internship with then, Senator (Barack) Obama. A few weeks later I interviewed for the position and was invited to come to New Hampshire to work for the campaign.”

Simpson described how hard it is to get started in politics and how dedicated one has to be to “make” it in that type of competitive atmosphere.

“I spent Christmas break that year in Keene, NH making phone calls and knocking on doors for Senator Obama,” Simpson recalled.  “Unfortunately, he lost the primary, but that didn’t deter me from trying to help his cause. When I returned to Penn State in January, I co-founded the Penn State Students for Barack Obama (PSFBO) and served as the Vice President of Communications until I graduated in May 2008. The organization was so successful in registering young people to vote that it turned Centre County from a Republican county to a Democratic one (in terms registered voters).

That was the beginning of what turned into an interesting career in the nation’s capital. But Simpson wanted to be well-prepared for the journey.

Simpson, in the White House, during Christmas time.

“I was beginning to think about my future and getting a job. I really wanted to work in political communications, but I knew that would be difficult in Washington, D.C. without a political science background. Therefore, I decided to apply to graduate school to get more experience in that field.” Simpson said.

She was accepted into George Washington University to study political management.

“For two years I worked on my master’s degree in the heart of the city only four blocks from the White House. During my time there,” she said.  “I took classes at night and had various internships during the day. I was a press intern for New Jersey Representative John Adler and Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill on Capitol Hill and a Media Affairs Intern at The White House.”

Simpson also stated in the email, “During my time in grad school, I interned at the magazine where I now work, Campaigns & Elections. I worked my way up from Events and Marketing Intern to a part-time events associate to a full-time events associate, and finally my position now, Associate Director of Political Programs.”

Simpson credits Penn Manor for its opportunities, academics as well as extracurricular activities.

“I had great opportunities to take leadership roles and begin to shape my life. Not all high schools have as many choices as we did at Penn Manor,” Simpson said.

“I was able to do all of these things because I cared about my future in high school – it’s the first step to getting into a good college or university and progressing from there. “