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A Capital Summer in D.C.

Former Fairfield student gets a firsthand look at the democratic process.

By Katrina Lapira

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Capitol South Metro serves as the gateway through which the essential “pulse and beat” of America’s policymaking center passes. It is situated a few steps from the majestic United States Capitol and the House of Representatives office buildings. From the summer months of May through August, the morning hours at this Metro stop are full of hustle and bustle, and the young, fresh faces of hundreds of interns who work on the Hill.

These interns, hailing from every corner of our country and some even from around the world, arrive with similar goals for our democracy. They come with an insatiable interest to learn what makes D.C. tick.

Among these fresh faces was my own. My name is Katrina Lapira. I am a senior at the University of California, Irvine and was a summer intern at the Office of Congressman John Garamendi, representative of the 10th Congressional District of California and my hometown of Fairfield-Suisun City, California.

Capitol Hill is a place unlike any other. Travelers from all over America and from all corners of the globe visit to learn how our representative democracy crafts the laws that guide the future of our country. This stimulating environment provides a unique educational experience. Along with learning that your feet will lose the battle with heels and that the “cloak room” is not a place where Harry Potter would be, I learned what it really means to best serve your constituents and all of the hard work that goes into doing so.

The tasks for a Capitol Hill intern are many and varied. I sorted and processed mail that we receive from constituents, such as how the Transportation Bill would help local infrastructure projects. This correspondence is a vital element to understanding, responding to, and acting on behalf of our constituents. I also gathered signatures from congressional offices for Congressman Garamendi’s legislation and letters, such as one urging the Air Force to bring a KC-10 modernization program to Travis Air Force Base. Legislative staff had me attend briefings on various policy issues.

Although I liked the free food at these events, I loved hearing ideas on fixing the problems our society faces. At a briefing on Human Trafficking, I joined Senators John Kerry and Barbara Boxer in listening intently to the horrifying experiences of survivors. I wrote up concise summaries for these briefings and for research assignments. For instance on behalf of legislative staff, I read and summarized the essential elements of a study on transportation projects with “Buy American” provisions that require the government to purchase equipment from American manufacturers.

The internship also provided me with the opportunity to share my love of our Capitol Building, and the values it embodies, by leading constituents on tours.

It also let me connect with fellow Fairfield residents. One day, I got to bond with a group of students, who, like me, have parents that work for Travis Air Force Base. Immediately after I introduced myself as an old Rodriguez Mustang and local from “the 707,” the students chatted me up about “Team Travis,” the Jelly Belly Factory, and everything else that makes our city awesome. Throughout this experience, the office staff served as excellent mentors.

Congressman Garamendi also checked in on occasion to make sure that interns enjoy their experience and receive good projects from staff, and to simply express his gratitude for my work.

Filled with multiple runs in and out of the Capitol tunnels and answering awesome constituent calls, I can honestly say my time on the Hill has been quite spectacular. I have learned a great deal from not only staff members, but also from my hardworking peers, and those who make the Hill function as a whole. It is from my most casual and relaxed interactions and conversations on the Hill where I learn the most about service to others and more about myself.

Cheers to my awesome Team Garamendi staffers, my fellow Anteaters (Zot! Zot!), and to everyone who has made my experience in D.C. absolutely amazing.

Office of Congressman Garamendi: If you are a college student who would like to intern in our Washington, D.C. or California office, please visit our Internship webpage to apply.

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