White House internship was in family's DNA

Kara Morrow shows off her Honors College graduation medal and alumni flag while Kaleb displays his Honors College certificate. (Photo by David Kadlubowski)

Story by Theresa Smith
Photos by David Kadlubowski
GCU News Bureau

Kara Morrow was awestruck, her fast-beating heart flooded with patriotic pride as she lined up with her White House intern class to meet the President of the United States.

“Growing up, you never think you’ll meet the President,” she said. “It was a little overwhelming. As he (Donald Trump) came down the line, I prepared myself for a firm handshake and a greeting full of reverence and gratitude. It was one of the coolest moments of my life.”

Kara, Kelly, Kelvin and Kaleb Morrow in their Peoria home. (Photo by David Kadlubowski)

That successful interaction highlighted a six-month period of incredible opportunities for the first Grand Canyon University Honors College student to be selected for a White House internship. A middle child, Kara comes from one of GCU’s most highly accomplished families.

Kelsey Morrow, a 2015 GCU graduate slated to finish chiropractor school in May, and Kaleb Morrow, a National Merit Finalist, complete the Honors College trio, who were raised with love, wisdom and Christian values in the Peoria home of Kelvin and Kelly Morrow. 

Sports and music accompanied scholars who were reading before kindergarten and devouring chapter books by first grade. Downplaying their multiple talents, Kelly said, “They all consider themselves nerds.”

Kaleb, a freshman and budding forensic scientist whose PSAT ranks in the top 1 percent, wryly allowed that the quest for success in the Morrow DNA does not always yield achievement.

“There were some things we did not do as well as other things,” he said. “Like I played basketball in sixth grade and I was not at all good. I was on the C team and it was debatable whether I should have been on that team at all. Still, my parents supported me.”

Kara poses in front of the White House.

Their support of Kara, along with encouragement from history professor Dr. David Dean, factored into her bold decision to tackle the application and 32-page background check to compete against several thousand candidates for one of 88 positions in the fall 2018 intern class. While riding home with her family from a Pennsylvania church camp on Aug. 8, she was notified of her acceptance.

“I was just in shock,” Kara said. “And I realized, just because I got my acceptance it didn’t necessarily mean I could go because I still had to figure out expenses and housing.”

By the Sept. 5 report date for the unpaid internship, she arranged to stay with Kelvin’s cousin in Maryland. Kara was tasked with compiling polling data on midterm elections, collecting press clippings of initiatives and formatting notes from meetings and interviews into briefing documents.

“Much of it was research-based, which as a history major I was very used to,” said Kara, who described the experience as grueling, stressful, challenging and fun.

“It gave me a huge appreciation for the amount of work that goes in,” she said. “The executive branch is not just the president and the vice president, but so many supporting offices and how much work they pour into the American people.”

While her expectations were high, the reality exceeded them.

Kara (right) with other White House interns.

“Our entire class of 88, we were entrusted with a lot of different projects,’’ she said. “It surprised me that we were given so many tasks and assignments. And there were a number of opportunities for our intern class: service projects, getting to hear different speakers and helping out with White House events.’’

The experience dramatically shifted her frame of reference.

“When I was growing up, I saw political figures on TV, I read history books and later on I took college classes and learned about historical figures, so getting to intern in the White House and seeing government up close changed my perspective on government,’’ she said. “I was able to see the humanity of people that work in government.’’

Clearly, the intern selection committee saw Kara’s humanity.

After pouring herself into GCU -- playing intramurals, cheering with the Havocs, logging three years as a Resident Assistant and Honors College student worker and serving as president of the Alpha Chi Honors Society – Kara feared that she didn’t do enough away from campus.

“Some of my friends already had multiple internships or were already working somewhere and finishing up school,” she said. “But then I realized I had taken on the things I enjoyed and done the best I could with what the Lord gave me to do. So getting this internship was a culmination of all of that work that showed me that, yes, it was enough. If you are faithful in even the small things, He will reward you with even bigger things.”

From left, Kelsey, Kara and Kaleb on a special White House tour.

Family members, including Kelly’s parents, shared in her reward by visiting Kara on White House tours and marveling at the Christmas decorations and the history of “The People’s House.” Amid a special West Wing tour, Kaleb was inspired.

“I guess Kara kind of paved the way for my parents to let me go on an internship to D.C.,” he said. “I guess part of my dream is to work in the FBI, and they have internships there.”

According to Breanna Naegeli, Associate Dean of the Honors College, Kaleb’s enrollment at GCU was a coup.

“To have Kaleb joining us, we are really excited,’’ she said. “Especially knowing he is a National Merit finalist and had an overwhelming number of options of places to go.’’

Kaleb made his college choice like a scientist seeking quantitative data.

“I chose GCU for the forensic science program and the Christian environment,’’ he said. “Plus, it is close to home. With the financial aspect, it was the obvious choice.’’

As a highly accomplished student from a Christian high school, Kaleb earned a Canyon Christian Schools Consortium scholarship. Additionally, he earned the highest academic scholarship GCU offers: the Chancellor Scholarship.

His interest in toxicology, the study of poisons, fluids and drugs, was spurred by a chemistry class and a forensic science class at Northwest Christian.

One of the perks for Kara and other White House interns was using the Harry S. Truman Bowling Alley.

Typically, he followed his curiosity wherever it led. As a 13-year-old, he attended one of Kelsey’s physics classes at GCU.

“I wanted to see how it was different,” he said. “It wasn’t really different except for the older people.”

The easygoing, self-deprecating young man interacts at Chapel and Life Group with friends and returns home on Sundays to see his parents and attend services at Phoenix Free Presbyterian (PFP) Church, where Kelvin and Kelly met.

Kelvin, a Tekemah, Neb., farm boy, earned a degree in technology from the University of Nebraska, worked in Detroit for a few years and then transferred to Phoenix, where he became a Christian, started attending PFP and met Kelly. After their wedding and the birth of Kelsey, Kelly gave up her accounting career to become a stay-at-home mom, attending her children’s plays, band concerts, athletic events and school presentations.

From Day 1, “they just loved school,” Kelly said.

“All three of us are naturally curious, asking questions and solving problems,” Kaleb said. “Our parents helped foster that. And we all just push each other to be the best that we can be.”

For now, that looks like Kelsey treating patients, Kara returning to Washington, D.C., to work in government and Kaleb living his best Lope life.

Contact Theresa Smith at (602) 639-7457 or [email protected].


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