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Champaign’s Claire Pollard doesn’t see herself as a future politician. But she might have found her calling behind the scenes.

A sophomore at Grinnell College, the St. Thomas More graduate spent the summer as an intern for Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro. For the 19-year-old religious studies major, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And it caused her to rethink her career path.

“When I came in (to Grinnell), I thought I was going to major in biology, and I hated biology,” Pollard said. “I was looking for something new to do. I was able to use my college’s exploratory resources to find a career that would match more with my interest and my temperament.”

Her new plan: earn a master’s degree in public policy and work in the policy field.

Pollard spent quality time with Castro, including a three-day trip to four cities in Iowa.

“That was such a cool experience,” Pollard said. “When you think about a young person working on a campaign, it’s like ‘OK, I am doing menial tasks.’ But I got to travel to Mount Pleasant, Keokuk, Davenport and Muscatine. I definitely felt like I got a very hands-on role.”

Pollard’s daily work included going to meetings and parades.

“There were days where it was 108 degrees and we were marching wearing dark, navy blue shirts,” Pollard said. “It was fun because I got to represent someone I care about. But it was also a little sweaty, too.”

Mostly, she talked to Iowans about Castro.

“I would say he is someone who represents what America needs,” Pollard said.

She was paid $15 an hour — the rate Castro wants set as the federal minimum wage.

Pollard is continuing to work on the Castro campaign as a volunteer in Grinnell. Perhaps it will lead to more stories for her to tell. Like the time she met former Vice President Joe Biden.

Pollard was attending the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding, an August event in Clear Lake. She went with coworkers to Dairy Queen in nearby Mason City.

“We all ordered, sitting in a booth, and all of a sudden, Joe Biden walked in,” she said. “I said ‘Joe Biden just walked into this Dairy Queen.’ And nobody else looked up because they thought I was making a joke.”

She took a picture with Biden wearing her Castro T-shirt.

On to my weekend recommendations:


“Jimmy Kimmel Live,” 10:30 p.m., ABC

Two of tonight’s guests have Illinois roots. Actor/comedian Nick Offerman is an Illinois alum. And actress/singer Keke Palmer was raised in Robbins.


College football: Texas A&M at Clemson, 2:30 p.m., ABC

What’s that? A pair of Top 10 teams playing each other in the second week? Beats the first-week blowouts.


“The Hangover Part II,” 8 p.m., Comedy Central

Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) are back — this time because Stu (Ed Helms) is getting married. Stu decides to have a bachelor brunch. What could go wrong?

College Football Reporter/Columnist

Bob Asmussen is a college football reporter and columnist for The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@BobAsmussen).