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Hope in Conservative Strongholds by Nicole Kruse

When I initially found the listing for the VPS Communications Intern position, I was fascinated by the role. I had been looking for opportunities to creatively grow my skill set beyond the classroom and gain real-world experience as a liberal arts major. I was drawn to VPS due to its niche mission—it is a political consulting firm that caters to progressive campaigns in the American south.

Having lived in the northeast my entire life, I admittedly did not know a lot about the southern political scene before my internship. However, I did have some exposure to grassroots organizing efforts in the south. I’d completed digital training to volunteer with FairFight and phonebanked on behalf of Democratic candidates to conservative, southern communities. These efforts often left me and my fellow volunteers feeling defeated.

Throughout my time at VPS it has been both refreshing and invigorating to work with Karley, Al, Jeffrie, and my fellow summer interns who have presented to me a new side of political activism. My experiences as a phonebanking volunteer left me emotionally drained, disillusioned, and generally, under the impression that my efforts had been for naught. Several months ago, I had wondered if there was even a place for a progressive activism effort in conservative strongholds.

My time at VPS destroyed these misconceptions about political progress. As a Communications Intern, I worked on tasks associated with the Get Vaccinated Chattanooga Campaign, as well as the Meg Gorman for Congress Campaign. Utilizing my training, I researched and presented data, created content, and collaborated with other interns to promote progressive campaigns.

The work of VPS is so essential to combat societal strife that continually inhibits meaningful dialogue. Prior to the 2020 General Election, I didn’t think there was hope to turn any of the staunchly red states blue until Georgia flipped; there lies proof that education and conversation can help promote progressive politics everywhere. I’m grateful for this experience as a Communications Intern for a multitude of reasons. I have been able to grow my own knowledge of political messaging while being fortunate to collaborate with dedicated, inspiring, supportive, and like-minded individuals who promote causes that will benefit southern communities.


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As a Denver native, my experience with Tennessee politics prior to my summer internship with Volunteer Progressive was limited. I have been interested in national politics for years, and I obsessively