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Cal in the Capital Blog 2019

Meet this summer’s student interns!

Mia Villaseñor

UC Berkeley Class of 2020
Legal Studies Major
Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA)

Mia VillasenorEvery individual I spoke to during my internship – from the top lobbyists to the policy analysts to the organizers out on the field – repeated the same sentiment that I quickly learned throughout the course of the summer: there is never a quiet day at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. PPFA is known for its fast pace in response to an ever-changing political environment and increasing threats to reproductive rights. This fast pace can often be exhausting and confusing, but also exhilarating and completely worthwhile for the victories that our organization can achieve on behalf of the millions of patients served by Planned Parenthood each year. As a Legislative Affairs intern, I worked directly with PPFA’s top lobbyists on issues such as the Trump administration’s domestic and global gag rules restricting the ability of physicians to relay critical reproductive health information and referrals to patients and the State Department’s recently formed and controversial Commission on Unalienable Rights. I attended briefings and press conferences on the hill, created fact sheets for Planned Parenthood’s annual Lobby Day in the Senate and the House, tracked legislation and vote records via Quarum, and updated Planned Parenthood’s affiliates on recent legislative, administrative, and litigation updates via biweekly newsletters Some of my most personally fulfilling work I accomplished involved my research on judicial nominees to the country’s critical federal courts. I researched the reproductive rights backgrounds and positions of judicial nominees, monitored Senate Judiciary Committee hearings and Senate vote records on nominees, and helped write and fact check a blog post on the dangerous state of reproductive rights in the United States Circuit Courts of Appeals.

Sean Funcheon

UC Berkeley Class of 2019
Rhetoric Major
The Peace Corps

Sean FuncheonThe particular relationship building experience that sticks out to me the most happened prior to me moving to DC. The Cal Career Center offered an “extern program” during the winter break of my senior year. The extern program allows you to shadow someone in a perspective career that you have interested in, for me that career was a director in the State Department. It was a wonderful experience and it shaped my personal and professional goals in life. No only did I get a private tour of the State Department but I made a mentor. The director who showed me around is so helpful, giving me encouragement, tips and tricks of the trade, they even opened up their home to me when my flight was canceled due to inclement weather. I am still in contact with them, even having dinner with their family soon. They are always pointing me toward people who I need to talk to in order to advance in my perspective career, they due to this not to get anything out of me, but the kindness of their own heart. My networking experience started before I got to DC, but now that I am here my network is booming! It is booming because I put myself out there to experience it. My advice to those just starting to network is to be genuine. I try never humor people just because I believe that I can get something out of them, I talk with them because I want to talk with them. I as questions, I formulate my own opinions, I try my hardest not to be intimidated by these really important people. I mirror the kindness that my mentor has shown me, to all people that I look toward for mentors, and I try to pass my knowledge to those who seek it. While I can be very outgoing, sometimes I have a hard time getting out of my shell, but when talking with people about what they are passionate about I can’t help but engage with them. I don’t network because that what you are supposed to do, I network because passionate people encourage me to be passionate. By engaging with such passionate people I surround myself with a community that encourages to follow my passions Community building is finding the people that encourage you to be the best person you can be, but also realizing career success does not make you a good person. Community is the people around you, so try to build the best possible. Like my mentor who opened up their home to me when I was stranded, I too try to help those in need because it is both give and take.

Amarpreet Kaur and Ariana De La Fuente

UC Berkeley Class of 2019
Amarpreet: Social Welfare and Public Policy Minor
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

Ariana: Political Science and Global Studies Major
Center for American Progress, Postsecondary Education Team

Ariana and AmarpreetAmarpreet: One thing I’ve learned about our nationa’s capital is that everyone is incredibly passionate about their work. There is immense intersectionality in one’s personal and professional life. This intersectionality makes DC unique in a hub of change. Everyone is trying to execute change in their respective field of passion. Interning in DC allows me to be a part of this culture which I have realized that I crave and enjoy. As someone who intersects their personal and professional life, I enjoy being in the culture of DC and experiencing it as an intern. I have never met groups of people as passionate as me about respective issues. My role in public service is working with the NAACP, the largest and oldest civil rights organization in the country. I realize people can play so many different roles in public service and there are so many ways to go about being a public servant.

Ariana: Throughout my time in DC, I have learned how DC can really feel like both a small and big place. In my internship, I focus on issues surrounding higher education and I was quickly connected with the larger Higher Ed Network that exists in DC. My internship provided a summer lunch and learn series where I visit other organizations that work on postsecondary education and build my higher ed network. I soon started seeing familiar faces at every event which made a large and intimidating place like DC feel a little smaller. My role in public service is researching and advocating on issues surrounding post secondary education. This includes highlighting the discrepancies amongst student experiences and outcomes. Through my internship, I research anything and everything having to do college affordability, accessibility and accountability. I believe that a quality and equitable education is a right and so with the research I do, I will continue to advocate for underrepresented students on both the national and state level. Previously, my application was more broad in that I wanted to work on human rights in general, but this internship has allowed me to focus on one aspect, the right to education.

Julia Castro

UC Berkeley Class of 2019
Comparative Literature Major, Spanish and Public Policy Minor
U.S. Department of Labor

Julia CastroWorking as a policy and Legislation Intern for the United States Department of Labor has been an exceptional experience for both my personal and professional development. As a policy intern, I had the opportunity to address daily casework requests from constituents that experience difficulty with workforce training programs and aided a variety of immigrants with their work visa applications. In addition, I had the privilege of contributing to conversations with congressional staff regarding the drafting of bills that will historically change the American workforce system. Due to these experiences, among others, I gained technical skills of analyzing legislation and delivering policy reports, as well as personal skills of empathy, compassion, and the ability to adapt to new environments. I hope to take the skills and knowledge that I have gained at a federal level positionl and apply them to my passions for my student community at UC Berkeley and my local government in Temecula, CA. As a legislative director for the ASUC Executive Vice President and Financial Aid Advisor for the Chancellor, I believe that I can offer my fellow students a strong voice that will advocate on their behalf for policies and commitments from leadership that will expand access to higher education and lower the cost of loan debt while we are enhancing our professional skills and preparing to enter the workforce. Overall, this program has expanded my perspective and given me the opportunity to partake in the federal government’s considerable initiative in expanding and offering workforce training and educational development programs to those in need of aid and guidance when reentering the American workforce.

Cora Fesler

UC Berkeley Class of 2021
Political Science Major
Office of United States Senator Feinstein

Cora FeslerWorking on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. is an experience which lives up to the height of its name. However, it is one which would not be made possible or nearly as exciting without the connections our students have through the Cal Alumni Club of D.C. Already, we’ve had a Welcome Event/Alumni Mixer and Dr. McGinnis’ famous summer BBQ, two opportunities which have made me feel a lot more at home in a place foreign to me. Because I am also the Cal in the Capital Alumni and Employer Outreach Director, I am lucky to have an interesting inside and outside perspective of the alumni connections with students. Before coming, I was afraid I wouldn’t stand out enough or be able to make a change in such a short amount of time, but after meeting the alumni network here and working alongside them to make sure every student has the guidance they need, I have come to realize that the only obstacle in this experience is time. Time is what determines how much you can do, how many connections you can make and how you feel at the end of the day, and the best use of my time so far has been spent getting to know Cal alumni. The alumni have taught me to make the most out of every situation and have exemplified that you never know who you might be talking to. The Cal Alumni in D.C. are some of the most diverse, fun loving, thoughtful people spread across all fields of work; there is never a dull lmoment and you learn from every conversation you spark up. In fact, one of my favorite staffers in the office is a Cal alumn, something which highlights just how far and wide Berkeley’s reach is, even from across the country. The connections I have made with alumni here in D.C. make me excited to continue networking with alumni across the country, and make me hopeful that someday I can help other Cal students in the same way they continue to help me now. We are so lucky to have so many people across fields who care so deeply about our success, and that to me, is the most valuable lesson I have learned here in D.C., and one which I will continue to carry with me well beyond this summer.

Juan Barrera Alcazar

UC Berkeley Class of 2018
Psychology Major, Education Minor
Human Rights Campaign

Juan Barrera AlcazarThis summer I interned for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, in the Youth & Campus Engagement department. Throughout my internship, I’ve learned how HRC works to empower LGBTQ youth and young adults. The Youth & Campus Engagement department specifically reaches countless of future LGBTQ leaders by providing online and printed resources, a scholarship database, and information about events happening on college campuses. My internship has reinforced the importance of increasing access to higher education for underserved communities. One of the main issues on college campuses is the lack of safe spaces and policies for LGBTQ students. Policies that support LGBTQ students have a tremendous impact that will allow them to continue and complete their undergraduate and graduate journeys. Education can be the great equalizer for underrepresented communities and it has the potential to transform people’s lives. Perhaps most importantly, my internship with HRC and my time in Washington, D.C. has taught me the impact of community building. Community building involves strengthening human connection with people from different backgrounds and highlighting the importance of communication when it comes to making authentic human connections. Hearing people’s stories of where they come from, who they are, and what they want to do is the best way to develop and understand people. At HRC, I was able to hear stories from some of the most vulnerable communities and that has allowed me to understand how I can be a better ally. I heard many of these eye-opening stories during the #keepfamiliestogether march, where thousands of people came together for one purpose. Wherever I go next, whether it’s back home or back to Cal, I am taking back a better understanding of what community building means and what it looks like on an activist scale. Friends, coworkers, and family are part of my community and it’s the force that helps me figure out what my next step in life will be. Both UC Berkeley and Cal in the Capital have been transformative experiences in my life. They have exposed me, an immigrant gay man from Long Beach, California, to countless opportunities that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. Now, with everything that I have learned and the connections I’ve made, I can share this knowledge with people from my community and cultivate relationships to increase Latinx representation in institutions like UC Berkeley and in cities like Washington, D.C.

Amita Chauhan

UC Berkeley Class of 2019
Political Science Major, Public Policy Minor
Department of Justice, Office of International Affairs

Amita Chauhan“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” I remember read this powerful inscription on the granite walls that wrapped around at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial during my first week in DC. Ten weeks later, as my internship comes to a close, I realize MLK Jr.’s words came with an important caveat. The arc of the moral universe does not invariably bend towards justice. Rather, it is the work of resolute public servants pushes this arc in the right direction. As an intern at the Office of International Affairs in the Department of Justice, I gained first-hand exposure to the work done to promote justice in the international realm. At OIA, attorneys and international affairs specialists send and receives mutual legal assistance (MLA) requests. These requests, in turn, allow prosecutors to gather evidence abroad that can be used in criminal prosecution. OIA also works with foreign authorities and domestic law enforcement agencies on fugitive extradition. My internship has reaffirmed my interest in international law, but more significantly, it has helped me develop the skills necessary to realize to excel in this field. In addition to gaining institutional knowledge, I have been able to refine my research and writing skills. Moreover, I have learned the importance of demonstrating a commitment to putting forth my best effort in each assignment I take on. I am incredibly grateful for the Cal in the Capital program. Without CITC, I wouldn’t have had access to the network of alumni that provided me with invaluable guidance during my time in DC. I also wouldn’t have had the chance to meet and make friends with with UC Berkeley students are interested in diverse social, political, and economic issues. CITC remains a critical program for Berkeley students because it supplements the academic rigor of Berkeley with extensive preparation for a career in public service. As I prepare my luggage to return to Berkeley, I know I will miss colleagues at the office and the CITC cohort. However, I am also excited for what tomorrow holds. After this transformative summer, I look forward to continuing to work in some to bend the arc of the moral universe towards justice.

Patsy Mejía

UC Berkeley Class of 2020
Political Science and Legal Studies Major
Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Patsy MejíaThis summer was my first time visiting our nation’s capital and the first time visiting the East Coast in general. I have always had a deep appreciation for cities like Washington, D.C. due to their rich history. However, being able to spend 10 weeks here for the summer at an internship allowed me to gain an additional layer of appreciation for this city. As the youngest daughter of Oaxacan immigrants from a low-income underrepresented community in the Central Valley, I didn’t think I would stand out enough in the application process to gain an internship opportunity in the nation’s capital. I did though! I am interning with Planned Parenthood and am really grateful for the opportunity. As an aspiring immigration attorney, my role as a Latino Outreach and Engagement Intern with Planned Parenthood has contributed to my plan to diversify how attorneys serve their communities. As a native from the Central Valley, I have witnessed the lack of resources and opportunities that undocumented immigrants have as a result of immigration status. I grew up with the innate sense that healthcare, legal counsel, and education should be fair and accessible to all because they are human rights. Working with an organization that prioritizes access to healthcare despite race, class or status has been a fulfilling opportunity. I have been able to engage in outreach work where I can directly communicate with members of the Latino community and share information about the goals and work that Planned Parenthood spearheads to include Latinos in their Reproductive Justice efforts. Planned Parenthood also has worked to diversify how they engage with the Latino community from Title X to the SCOTUS vacancy and have worked to advocate for immigrants. I aim to become not only a legal resource for my community, but a resource where my community can ask for help on a variety of subjects, including healthcare. As an intern for Planned Parenthood in Washington, D.C., I have been able to gain valuable experience and insight. I have been able to see news that affects the Latino community as it breaks and spreads throughout the country. I have been able to witness how organizations like Planned Parenthood seek to build coalitions with each other in order to fight and advocate for immigrant rights and the Latino community in general, both of which have been severely under attack since the transition of the administration. Despite who is the majority in government, my internship with Planned Parenthood and my time in DC have shown me that the real majority are the communities that fight for others’ rights.