The Wessex Wire

The Student News Site of West Essex Regional High School

The Wessex Wire

The Wessex Wire

W.E. grads follow political aspirations

Julie McClain ’06, communications director for Clinton campaign

By Melanie Montesdeoca ’18

Even though Julie McClain says working for Hillary Clinton for America is an extremely time consuming job, she wouldn’t want to have it any other way.

“I eat, sleep, and breathe Hillary Clinton right now,” McClain said. “But I feel very lucky to be part of making history. It’s challenging and difficult and extremely exciting.”

McClain is currently the communications director for Clinton’s Maryland campaign, and prior to that she worked as Clinton’s New Hampshire press secretary for the past year.

A 2006 graduate of West Essex, McClain came to the realization at a young age that she wanted to be involved in politics. She furthered that love for politics at the University of Pennsylvania when she took an intro course on American politics her freshman year. McClain says being at West Essex was a wonderful “stepping stone” that gave her the life skills that have helped her through all of her work in politics and media. “My U.S. History courses, taught by Mr. Boyd and Mr. Woodworth, really sparked my interest in government,” she said. “As did a few of my extracurriculars, like class council and the Lincoln-Douglass debate team.”

McClain worked as communications director of the New Hampshire Democratic Party; various press secretary-related positions for congressional and senate races in Hawaii, Nevada and Pennsylvania; and as policy assistant for Andrew Cuomo’s gubernatorial campaign in 2010.

McClain began working toward her dream job in D.C. by starting out as an unpaid intern during summers at the University of Pennsylvania. She did a little bit of everything, interning for Sen.Frank Lautenberg of N.J., a New York city council member, and then Andrew Cuomo’s gubernatorial campaign. “I had a hard time finding a job in D.C. and wanted to work in communications, a field I hadn’t worked in previously.”

“In politics, people are always helping each other out. You never know when someone may be able to help you in the future,” McClain said.

TJ Helmstetter ’03, deputy director of regional/specialty media for DNC

By Chris Tsakonas ’18

TJ Helmstetter walks through the entrance at Democratic National Committee headquarters. He has been dreaming of working here since he was eight years old, and now that dream is a reality. As Deputy Director of Regional and Specialty Media at the DNC, his job is to make sure that the Democratic platform reaches the voters.

“My role is specifically to ensure that the message of Democrats is getting out there to voters and [explain to them] how critical those differences are and why it is so important to elect a Democratic president,” Helmstetter explained.

He graduated from West Essex in 2003, and was the editor in chief of this publication for two years. His former advisor and journalism teacher, Ms. Tina Lane, was an inspiration that motivates him to this day.

“She showed me what everyone’s role is as an engaged citizen and to seek out and stand up for the truth,” he said.

He is concerned about young people that don’t care about political issues. “With issues like student debt and other challenges that our parents didn’t face, we have a responsibility to be engaged because if we’re not voting, then politicians aren’t listening to us,” McCalin said.

The rise of social media has made it easier for politically active students to get involved, meaning that there are no excuses for students to not be in there, according to Helmstetter.

Helmstetter advises students to get involved in politics based on their interests.

“Find an organization or candidate that wants to do something about it. Don’t be afraid to take an unpaid internship because you fear your talent will be unrecognized; you’ll work your way up.”

Hannah Ritter ’13, president of Emerson College Polling Society

By Daniella Ignacio ’17

Hannah Ritter, a 2013 West Essex graduate is a senior at Emerson College in Boston majoring in political communication. She serves as president of the Emerson College Polling Society, a student-run organization that writes, administers and analyzes its own public opinion polls. Its reach spans from the Boston area to the national level, with polls and articles featured in media outlets such as the Huffington Post, the Washington Post and MSNBC´s Hardball with Chris Mathews.

Ritter’s interest in politics began in high school. Her APUSH classes with Ms. Blanchard and AP Gov and Pol with Ms. Vaknin inspired her passion and understanding for America’s political system, and when she discovered the polling group at Emerson’s organization fair during her first semester, she dove right in.

“Working in politics is super unique because it is always fast-paced and relevant,” Ritter said. “[It] can really impact public perception and what living in the U.S. looks like [and] can take many forms, from working on domestic policy, for campaigns or on international relations.”

Through ECPS, Ritter said, she’s developed skills in professional writing, communicating and data analysis, among others. This organization has also given her many opportunities to gain real-world experience with politics. Ritter traveled all over the country with the organization to cover political events, visiting locations such as Washington, D.C. and Wisconsin, the latter of which she visited for the April 5 primary.

She’s worked with Jumpstart, an Americorps program dedicated to increasing the language and literacy skills of low-income preschoolers, and serves an administrative role for an organization at a South Boston preschool.

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