Beth Ferns '78 & daughter Erin Kelley '04 keep TWC in the family

Beth Ferns '78 & daughter Erin Kelley '04 keep TWC in the family

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Kristin Simonetti
August 15, 2014

Throughout her career as a high-school law teacher, Elizabeth Ferns '78 preached the power of internships. Many students heeded her advice, and several even followed in her footsteps as part of The Washington Center's Law and Criminal Justice program. One in particular makes Ferns especially proud: Her daughter, Erin Kelley '04.


"The Washington Center provided something that will always give us an experience in common," says Ferns of Kelley, an analyst for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. "It's something we can always talk about and remember."


Those talks began a little more than a decade ago, when Kelley neared the end of her days as Ferns' student.


"I initially looked at colleges around D.C.," says Kelley, who opted to stay in New England at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. "When we toured, she brought me to where she lived and interned while at The Washington Center."


The address: 1430 Rhode Island Avenue NW; not far from where TWC's headquarters stand today on 16th Street NW. In the late 1970s, though, Ferns recalled a distinctly different ambiance around the neighborhood.


"The hotel was right outside D.C.'s red-light district. It was a social and cultural education in addition to an academic one!" says Ferns, who came to D.C. from Westfield State College (now University) in Massachusetts. She was pleased to learn that the area she once lived in - and the NoMa community in Northeast D.C. where TWC students live now - has cleaned up quite a bit.


But the environment wasn't the only thing that had changed in the time between Ferns and Kelley's TWC experiences. The duo was particularly interested in TWC's array of academic, professional and personal development programs, which Kelley could take part in outside of her internship with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.


"TWC gives you a broad perspective, exposing you to people from all over the world - but also different professional sectors," Kelley says. "It helped me determine where I wanted to go in terms of government, nonprofits or the private sector - and that's experience I just wouldn't have had staying in Massachusetts.


Kelley, however, didn't have quite as unique an experience as her mother did as an intern with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington.


"I had to step in as a lineup substitute one day. The attorney came up to me afterward and said, 'Good news: You looked great in the picture. Bad news: The witness picked you,'" Ferns laughs, still able to channel that heart-stopping moment decades later. "It comes in handy - I have used that photograph to teach my classes about the risks of eyewitness identification!"


Kelley recently began exercising the teacher half of her maternal DNA, plying that skill in her current assignment with the DEA. Kelley leads various trainings with state and local law enforcement officials and foreign counterparts, helping staff in the field understand current trends and new methods of working through their cases. She credits her mom with having an influence on the professional path she's taken.


Ferns, for her part, is grateful for the chance to be part of the ride.


"She's lived out the dream I thought I'd pursue," Ferns says. "I get to live vicariouly through her efforts."


For more photos from Ferns and Kelley's TWC experiences, please visit the Flickr album.

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