“If you had told me when I first visited D.C. and when I first started attending Cornerstone University that I’d be working in Congress, I would have laughed.”
Sometimes, dreams have to die for them to be realized. That’s what legislative fellow Andrei Sullivan (B.S. ’16) learned as he found himself returning to Capitol Hill 10 years after his first visit to Washington, D.C.
The Dream Begins
At age 15, Andrei Sullivan visited Washington, D.C., with his family for the first time. Eager to learn, Andrei took a tour of the Capitol Building on the invitation from a Congressman. Andrei saw several rooms and learned a multitude of things about the U.S. government, but there was one moment that completely took his breath away. In the middle of the tour, they stopped in the Congressional Prayer Room, and it was in that small, intimate space that Andrei was struck with a realization—”This is where I want to be.” This planted a small seed in him, and he left the capitol that day inspired, positive that he would be back one day. But, as life for Andrei continued as normal, that dream began to fade, as many often do.
Educating the Dream
Andrei moved with his parents to the U.S. in 2010, after being missionaries in Russia for 11 years. Andrei began his academic career at Lake Michigan College (LMC), studying history and communication. His parents brought up the idea of Cornerstone as a potential school, and Andrei decided it was time to turn over a new leaf. He graduated with an associate degree from LMC in 2014 and transferred to Cornerstone, craving a Christ-centered education at a small, private school.
As he was focusing on his communication and history studies, his passion for politics was slowly being forgotten. At a point that was both his lowest and the most undecided, Julie Skinner, a staff member at Cornerstone, recommended an advocacy internship where he would lobby state senators on behalf of individuals with disabilities. Going through this program rekindled his passion for public service.
This drive was further fueled as he started making networking trips out to Washington, D.C. With each trip, it became apparent that this was indeed the dream he had been called to. Doors continued to open until finally, a Congressman offered Andrei a job on the spot.
By his senior year, Andrei had developed close relationships with many of the staff and faculty members on campus. These professors encouraged him and challenged him, and on graduation day, by crossing that stage, Andrei felt prepared to cross into the next stage of accomplishing his calling to work in the nation’s capital.
Living the Dream
Andrei started his work in Washington, D.C., as an intern in Congress for nine months. That short amount of time proved to be the most fruitful, challenging and thrilling time of his life. From there, Andrei transitioned to a lobbying firm downtown. In his time with this lobbying firm, Andrei was not fulfilled. Though he had a good job and was able to support himself, he felt that he wasn’t satisfied. His passion was on Capitol Hill, not downtown.
Due to corporate downsizing, Andrei’s job at the lobbying firm was eliminated and he immediately turned back to the Capitol. Through his time as an intern in Congress, Andrei had made several connections, one of which was a Representative from Illinois by the name of Congressman John Shimkus. Andrei reached out to the Congressman and his staff to ask for an opportunity to work with that office. Within a day’s time, Andrei returned to the House of Representatives as a legislative fellow for Congressman John Shimkus.
As a fellow, Andrei is responsible for processing calls, giving tours of the U.S. Capitol, writing speeches regarding issues of the day, doing legislative research and networking. One of Andrei’s favorite things to do is give tours. “It brings out the kid in me,” he said.
“If you had told me when I first visited D.C. and when I first started at Cornerstone that I’d be working in Congress, I would have laughed,” he often says to himself. But it is in the statement, one realizes how far a dream can carry oneself. Andrei constantly reminds himself to never lose this fascination with the calling. Otherwise, it’s time to go back home.
Andrei believes it is important to keep in mind that, no matter which party owns the majority, there is always someone higher in control. Andrei believes that God has placed him in this position for a reason, and he intends to stay on the Hill for as long as he can. “This is not a job,” Andrei shared. “This is a privilege and the dream of a lifetime.”
More information about Andrei and his story prior to the U.S. can be found here.