LIFE LESSONS: Dale Ride Interns Learn How Government Really Works… and More!
Interns were in three Senate offices, the Hispanic Institute, the Healthcare for America Now! office, and the Department of Homeland Security.
|The six interns gather before setting off for Washington D.C.|
Imagine learning history or political science not only in the classroom, but by attending a session in Congress, or working for prosecutors in Homeland Security, even helping the military’s top brass write position papers delivered to the nation’s leaders.
That’s exactly how six students from Santa Monica College spent eight weeks this summer as Dale Ride interns in Washington D.C. Now in its 17th year, the program–which honors Dr. Dale Ride, the late SMC Political Science professor, administrator and political activist–allows students to learn first-hand the political process and gain valuable insights on the inner workings of a governmental office.
Santa Monica Foundation awards banquet; 2009 Dale Ride interns
Arya Rahimian, Rocio Lebron, Seth Smith, Cameron Henton, Jafet Santiago,
and Kara Mazareas, with Mrs. Joyce Ride, center
The program also helps students build their resumés and make valuable contacts that can help them get a “foot in the door” as they embark on a career.
“I learned a lot about the dynamics of Capitol Hill from an inside perspective, which has been invaluable in helping me assess my future career goals,” said Kara Mazareas, a 2009 summer intern.
“I was assuming that I would be doing the grunt work… making copies and answering phones, sorting mail, things of that nature,” said Seth Smith, an intern in Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman’s office. “I had no idea that I’d be writing arguments that the Senator would deliver on the Senate floor in the middle of debate.”
The six interns were among 90 SMC students with at least a 3.0 GPA interviewed as potential candidates for the program. Applicants were chosen based on an essay describing their interest in public service, a list of class requirements and three letters of recommendation (at least two from SMC faculty or administrators) attesting to their “qualifications, competency and integrity.”
Although the Foundation had budgeted the airfare and student housing at George Washington University for only four interns, its board members stepped up to help send two additional interns, said Charles “Chip” Potts, Chief Financial Officer of the SMC Foundation, which administers the program.
|“I am not aware of any other community college or two year institution that has a program such as ours. When our students come back from D.C., they report other interns were from Harvard or Yale or Stanford, some of the top-notch schools in the country.” – Chip Potts, Chief Financial Officer, Santa Monica College Foundation||
“They were all very strong candidates and really deserving of doing the internship in Washington,” said Potts, a D.C. native who uses his contacts in the capitol to help place the interns. “It became important to us to raise the additional funds. A number of our board members stepped up and contributed.
“It really is an exciting opportunity for our students to experience something that is truly rewarding, unique and exciting.”
Here are this year’s six Dale Ride interns and what they had to say after returning from a cross-country trip they all agreed changed the way they viewed the world and will perhaps help them shape their future.
|Intern Kara Mazareas with California Senator Barbara Boxer|
Kara Mazareas, a participant in SMC’s Scholars Program and a volunteer for several local non-profits, worked as an intern for California Senator Barbara Boxer.
“It was a really enhancing valuable experience seeing Washington from the inside perspective. That’s helped me to assess my career goals and options and different positions I’d want to pursue. Meeting so many kids from all over the country with similar ambitions was a really fun environment, talking politics and going out.
“It helped, especially in the beginning, to have a family from SMC during the first few weeks. Eventually we met different friends but we always had each other to talk to. The friendships that we made there are lifelong.”
Rocio Lebron with Congressman Phil Roe, Tennessee 1st District, and
Congresswoman Cynthia M. Lummis, Wyoming (at large)
Rocio Lebron, a political science major who transferred to UCLA, says the internship helped prepare her for a career in law. She is currently applying as a Law Fellows, which prepares undergraduate students to better compete for admission to UCLA law school.
“The Foundation made me feel like a princess. The Foundation did everything they could to make us feel comfortable, safe and really excited about this.
“One of the best things about the housing was that I was not alone. I was right next to the other interns from SMC, and that made all of us feel a lot more comfortable.”
“I never expected to walk around with congressmen and women, come across them in the subway. I got to go into Congress. I never expected this experience to be so amazing. I got to do a lot and was exposed to a lot of people and places in Washington D.C., and that’s something that I’ll never forget.”
|Intern Seth Smith with Jeremy Kirkpatrick, aide to Senator Joseph Lieberman|
Seth Smith is involved with the Black Collegiate program and Scholars program at SMC. A navy veteran who served in the Middle East, he volunteers at the Veterans Resource Center, where he serves as a mentor.
“Working in Senator Lieberman’s office was great. The people there from himself to the Chief of Staff all the way down to legislative aides were all extremely capable and helpful people that made sure I was taken care of and gave me worthwhile work to do.
“Because of my background I was used specifically for issues that dealt with national security, military affairs and things of that nature. I was given free reign and a lot of responsibility to do a lot of different things that I don’t think a normal intern would have the chance to do.
“I hit the ground running starting from day one. I think it was a great experience… something that I’ll cherish and will be very useful for me in the future.”
Intern Ayra Rahimian with Justin Anderson, Deputy Operation Manager
of Healthcare for America NOW!
Arya Rahimian, a former member of the Sustainable Works Project and Progressive Democrats Club, is a transfer student at USC who plans to attend law school. In Washington, he was a Dale Ride intern at the Healthcare for America unit.
“My internship involved a lot of fieldwork. I wasn’t just answering the phone… I got to participate in meetings between the heads of non-profit for things we’re pushing for… policies in Washington DC. I learned a lot from our policy directors and legislative directors.
“It was surreal to be part of the DC political thing. I loved being involved. I met a lot of great people: senators, congressmen. I got to go to a lot of great seminars. It was awesome.
“This experience will help me get into law school. If I bring up my internship experience in an interview, it’s an advantage over anyone else. The Foundation provided us with this opportunity and that was a great thing.”
|Senator Lisa Murkowski’s chief of staff, Karen Knudton, with intern Cameron Henton|
Cameron Henton, who served four years in the Marine Corps, was an intern in Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski’s office.
“The overall experience and the biggest focus for me was understanding how Washington D.C. works. The number of people that have to work on all the different policies in order to keep the country running was huge for me to comprehend.
“It was all about doing your best. I learned to appreciate, and not take for granted the perspective of how hard it is for so many different groups to really debate about something to get a solution. I really got an understanding of how monumental and important it is in terms of the democratic process.
“I wasn’t just a guy getting people coffee and making copies. I was a part of the process of the day-to-day.”
Alfonso Robles, Chief Counsel, Customs and Borders,
with intern Jafet Santiago
Jafet Santiago, Associated Students vice president and member of the speech and Debate Club, already had been an intern in California Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office. But it wasn’t until the aspiring District Attorney returned as a Dale Ride intern that she felt she fully reaped the benefits of volunteering in the nation’s capital.
“The Dale Ride Internship covers it all. Your time there isn’t just about work. It’s about meeting new friends and social connections and getting to know yourself on a political level. Washington is a political Mecca, and being a part of the Dale Ride Internship you get to know where you stand.
“The internship allowed me to experience first hand what a law degree can do for me and what the field of criminal prosecution is all about. I did gain a lot from this experience. We really have been able to find out who we are and who we’re becoming.”
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