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Dickinson native interns for Rep. Kevin Cramer

Cory Pletan

Dickinson native Cory Pletan is a man who follows his dreams.

In seventh grade, Pletan decided he wanted to go to Harvard University in Massachusetts. So he did, but only after his fair share of hard work, planning and some determination.

This summer, he's living out another dream as an intern in Rep. Kevin Cramer's office in Washington, D.C.

"I'm very interested in politics and the issues North Dakota's facing," he said. "I'm using this summer to help me figure out what I want to do."

Congressional internships are unpaid and were created to be a learning experience for students, replacing time in the classroom with hands-on education. While unpaid interns can perform some tasks, they are supposed to be nonessential to the company.

Cramer, R-N.D., said he tries to create an atmosphere for his interns as was originally intended.

"For me, the internship has to have some academic relevance," Cramer said from an airport as he was heading back to North Dakota on Friday. "So often times interns fold letters and stuff envelopes and make photocopies -- not that that doesn't need to be done -- but I try to incorporate the interns right into the legislative process."

Cramer announced his summer interns last week. Pletan will join four other interns in the congressman's Washington office. There will be two interns in the Fargo office as well.

"I've always been really interested in politics and government and things of that nature," Pletan said. "I'm involved in the Republican club at Harvard and other organizations there, like the Harvard Political Review, I write for that."

Pletan is majoring in history, with a minor in economics.

The Washington interns finished training this week and are ready to hit the ground running.

"Cory will find himself coming to natural resources hearings with me, perhaps doing some energy research as well as just doing other things that need to be done around the office," Cramer said. "A North Dakota Harvard guy that has an interest in politics and energy, he should fit right in to my shop."

In addition to working at the congressman's office, interns have the opportunity to attend lectures and events.

Interns are charged with finding their own housing. Luckily, Pletan has a cousin living in Arlington, Va., who will allow him to stay over the summer. Pletan will have a 30-minute train ride to work each day.

"That extra perspective that a younger person brings is really valuable to my understanding," Cramer said.

There was one intern working in the office during the spring semester, but the summer interns are the first large group to work in Cramer's office since his election in November.

"It's a great experience both for the intern and our office, for sure," Cramer said.

Pletan will be heading into his junior year at Harvard once his internship is done, but not without coming back to Dickinson to spend time with his family.

"Thank God for Facetime and things like that so you can still see him," his mom, Judy, said. "But it's a perfect place for him, he's just blossoming there."

Cory's mom may have been the one to trigger his desire to attend Harvard.

"My mom gave me a t-shirt when I was in seventh grade," Cory said. "I thought it would be real cool to go there. Not a whole lot of people from the Dickinson area go there."

Once that goal was set, Judy helped make that happen.

"You hope for the best for your child and you hope he can make it," Judy said. "Cory's very determined -- he worked steadily along the way to make sure things like that could happen for him."

He worked toward his goal and made it to Harvard in the fall of 2011, after graduating in the spring from Dickinson High School.

"I'm really glad I made that decision," Cory said. "I feel really, really lucky that I got to go there because there's a lot of kids that deserve to go that don't get to."

Cory spent last summer working in Dickinson and helping his dad, Rocky, and younger brother, Kyle, restore Kyle's car, a 1955 Ford Mustang.

Because he goes to college nearly 2,000 miles away, Cory has only been able to come home during Christmas and Thanksgiving.

Kyle, who graduated this spring, will be attending the University of North Dakota in the fall.

"It's one of the top-rated engineering schools in the United States," Judy said of UND. "It's hard to see them go, but whatever their dreams are I've been supportive and tried to help them get there."

Cory's internship wraps on Aug. 5, when Congress goes on its month long summer break.

"(Cory) will come home for about two weeks -- enough to help his brother move to college and then off to college himself," Judy said.

Cramer's office is currently taking applications for fall interns through its website, The deadline is July 20.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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