Rising sophomore Syed Zaidi’s summer internship has given him a firsthand look inside New York City’s political sphere by campaigning for Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Zaidi is in charge of the Student Initiative Committee of southeast Queens, which recruits campaign support from young people in local high schools and colleges. He has recruited more than 200 students this summer, 20 of whom were selected to work on the campaign on a daily basis. In addition, he has completed more than 500 petitions for the Independent Jobs and Education party line on which Bloomberg is running.
“We raise issues we find in door-to-door canvassing. I’m able to put my own knowledge into the campaign to make it successful,” Zaidi says.
A typical day in the office is busy, as Zaidi is also in charge of information technology for southeast Queens and does much of the scanning from feedback forms, as well as database entry. “I attend meetings weekly, work with documents and numbers, and, most importantly, go out and raise support for Mayor Bloomberg. It’s rewarding to see my hard work paying off.”
He admits that being on a campaign means long hours. “My biggest challenge is balancing free and work time. It’s a lot of work, but fun.” His dedication has certainly paid off, as Zaidi was honored with Intern of the Month from the campaign’s senior staff.
Campaigning has been a valuable learning experience. “I’ve learned that you can have all the money in the world, but if you don’t have grassroots support, you’ll fail in your campaign,” he explains. “It’s evident that people, especially of middle- to lower-class, are looking to be represented.”
In recent years, Zaidi has gained campaigning experience with various politicians. He and his family volunteered for Bloomberg in 2005, and Zaidi has also worked with former Gov. Elliot Spitzer and New York City Council Member Eric Gioia. He credits much of his preparation for campaigning from working with Hobart Student Government and from creating a new club on campus, Project Nur.
“It really helped me out to gain more organizational and public relations skills,” he says. “Extracurriculars provide so much support in internships.”
Zaidi is an international relations major with a double minor in anthropology and economics. In addition to student government and Project Nur, he is involved with Hillel.