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Latesha Thornhill ’21 telling the stories of veterans through VA internship

Latesha Thornhill

Latesha Thornhill ’21 poses with a photo of her late father, who served in the Navy. 

The stories of veterans are close to the heart of Latesha Thornhill ’21. 

Her father, who was in the U.S. Navy, spent her childhood sharing stories about his life in the military. Though he passed away last year, his influence on her continues.

Thornhill is currently interning for the Department of Veterans Affairs, a position that is giving her the opportunity to not just learn new skills, but to honor her father as well.

“I feel like doing this has brought me a little bit closer to him for a little bit longer,” she said.

Thornhill started out as a digital media engagement intern last fall, working as a researcher and fact checker for the department’s external communications, including the Veterans of the Day blog posts. 

 “It’s really about making sure we’re telling their stories,” said Thornhill, who is majoring in philosophy, political science, and East Asian studies at Randolph. “When I’m fact checking, I’m literally looking at every single word, making sure the information is right and that the spelling and names are correct. I also check the graphics to ensure the medals are in the right order.”

Recently promoted, she’s now a department head in charge of the Veterans of the Day section. Her duties vary, but she still ensures every post is fact-checked and assists other interns with their work. 

It is a time-intensive process, but the work means a lot to Thornhill, who learned the importance of critical thinking and ethical, accurate storytelling from her father.

She also credits her philosophy studies.

“One huge aspect of philosophy is making sure you are working within ethical means,” Thornhill said during a recent podcast hosted by a colleague. “So when you tell a story, you want to tell somebody’s full story, and you want to tell that story accurately. I know I would want somebody to tell my dad’s story accurately.”

The skills she is honing through the internship will help her as she applies for graduate programs in communications, with the ultimate goal of becoming an international journalist.

Philosophy professor Kaija Mortensen has been impressed by Thornhill’s approach, recalling an instance when she tried to recruit her to join the College’s Ethics Bowl team. 

Thornhill turned her down with a thoughtful response Mortensen still remembers: “I don’t think you can solve ethical dilemmas in five minutes.” 

“It was such a powerful insight,” said Mortensen, one of Thornhill’s advisers.

“That’s just the way the competition works. You get a dilemma, you deliberate for five minutes, and then you have to present an argument. And she wasn’t interested in that. I thought that was a great insight into the seriousness with which she takes hard, ethical situations and wanting to be ethical in her life. I just really appreciate her mind in that way.”

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