Taking Advantage of Opportunities

I am at a time in my life where I have the chance to explore what I am interested in because my opportunities are endless, and I am going to take advantage of whatever opportunities I can grasp on to.

SPA Leadership Program

The SPA Leadership Program is easily my favorite part of American University. I applied to this program on a whim, not even fully looking up what the program was, but it is a decision I am thankful for every day.

The first year in the program, we were broken up in to six different policy issue groups. I was in the group Economic Inequality with six other students, where we chose to research the correlation between economic class and drug addiction, a project we ultimately called “The Economics of Addiction.” Never before had I enjoyed working in a team before. There is always one person who doesn’t do their work and everyone else ultimately has to pick up their slack. In this case, however, that did not come close to happening. In fact, it was because of this program I learned of the power of group work.

In our research we discovered that the economic class an individual is in impacts the types of drugs they are likely to get addicted to, the treatments that are available to them, and their likelihood of being able to maintain sobriety once they get “clean.” After conducting our research, we implemented a social action project in which we raised over $600 through restaurant fundraisers and a Valentine’s Day candy gram fundraiser which we used to sponsor the housing for one month for a woman participating in in a drug treatment program specifically for women in DC, and to go and cook dinner for other women in the program.

In the second year of the program, we get to do a research and social action project by ourselves in any area we choose.

I was a dancer from the time I was two until I injured my knee when I was 18 and had to give it up. I recognize how lucky I was to be able to participate in this sport and art form because I know that it is not an opportunity many people, especially those from lower socioeconomic statuses, get. However, I also know that there are many benefits associated with participating in an art; benefits we are essentially neglecting to give to people who come from families with lower incomes.

For this reason, I chose to research if there are impacts to students from lower socioeconomic statuses in participating in arts education, and if so, what are they. In my research so far, I have seen significant benefits associated with arts education. This led me to creating a 5-week long arts-based education curriculum for a third grade class at Sela Public Charter School in Washington, DC. The students learned about standing up in front of a crowd and were able to create their own puppets and put on puppet shows for the members of their class.

Additionally, I am so honored to have served as a Teaching Assistant for the program. I guided a group of 6 students in the issue area of Education and Empowerment as they research which impacts affect whether a student will graduate from high school. One of the biggest factors they found was the support a student receives will have a major impact on their success in school. From this research, they created their own resume and cover letter workshops to work with Mentor’s Inc., a DC based group that provides students at risk of not graduating with a mentor to help them to succeed. They currently have a 100% success rate of their students graduating!

In my final year at AU, I have taken on the role of Student Co-Director of the program. Because this program has given so much to me, this role is allowing me to give back. As a Student Co-Director, I am overseeing the First Year TAs and three of the Steering Committee teams. Our program is unique in that it acts as both an academic program and a social program. In coordinating with both the faculty members on the academic side and the students on the social side, my job is to help bridge the gap and create the community that makes the SPA Leadership Program one of the best parts of American University.

It is very interesting to take the leadership skills we have been cultivating through the program and actually apply them to real life leadership. We learned in class that people aren’t necessarily born leaders, you can learn to become one. While I have held leadership positions before, this experience is truly helping me to grow as a leader. I am learning to delegate tasks, listen to the needs of others, and not only working with a team, but being in charge of the team.

The SPA Leadership Program has provided me with a community of support. I have made some of my closest friends through my involvement in the program, and have grown so much as a person and a leader.

Interning on the Hill

It was very American University of me to decide that I wanted to intern on the Hill during my college career, but I figured that if I am going to live in the city where things happen, I am going to take advantage of that by being there and watching it happen. I was extremely lucky to get the opportunity to intern in Representative Ed Perlmutter’s office in the Spring of 2019. Representative Perlmutter comes from the 7th District in Colorado, one district over from where I live, so all but one of the staffers that worked in his office were from Colorado as well. It was cool to have a little piece of home here with me over 2,000 miles away.

This internships was one of the best experiences I have ever had. While of course I had some typical intern tasks, such as sorting documents, mailing letters, or recording constituent mail, I was also given a unique, first-hand look at how our federal government operates.  I was sent by the legislative assistants to various committee hearings and congressional briefings where I learned about the legislative priorities of interest groups, as well as Members of Congress themselves. I also had the opportunity to sit in on meetings between the Representative, his staff, and various lobbying groups to see up-close how people attempt to influence the Rep in how he will vote on upcoming legislation.

Another interesting job that I had was answering constituent phone calls. It was a priority in Ed’s office that constituents were being heard, something that I find very important, and is probably one of the reasons I enjoyed the office atmosphere so much. While for some politicians the power of being in office is what motivates them, Ed was constituent driven; he has not forgotten that he is in Washington to represent the needs of those who elected him. Getting to talk to the constituents and hearing them voice their concerns was an honor, and I am glad I had a little bit of a part in helping them out.

My favorite part of the internship was completing my legislative intern project. Unique to Representative Perlmutter’s office, all of the interns chose a piece of legislation that Ed had yet to sponsor or co-sponsor and research and ultimately propose to him why it was something that he should support and how it would benefit the people of the 7th District of Colorado. I chose to look at Automatic Voter Registration, and after a semester of research and work with the legislative assistants, I got to meet one-on-one with the rep. to propose my piece of legislation. The best part, he told me he was incredibly impressed by the work I had done, and ultimately co-sponsored my bill.

Interning in the Governor’s Office

After spending my Spring getting to actively participate in the legislative process and hang out in the U.S. Capitol, I couldn’t go back home for the summer and do nothing. So, I applied to intern in the Governor’s office, and boy am I glad I did!

I was assigned to intern in the scheduling office for Governor Jared Polis of Colorado. Governor Polis is very inspiring to me as he is the first openly gay governor in the United States, and the first Jewish governor in the State of Colorado.

I did not know what to expect when I was assigned to the scheduling office, but I quickly learned that the scheduler for any political figure is probably the most powerful person in the office, though her work often goes unnoticed. Her job is not just to put things in the calendar, she has to coordinate with State Patrol to get the Governor to the right place at the right time, provide the Governor with the information he needs to understand why he is at an event or taking a meeting and make sure he knows what to say, coordinate with EVERY SINGLE OFFICE that makes up the Governor’s office so that they can all have time with the governor, while ensuring that he has time in the day to actually take a break and eat lunch.

I was extremely lucky to intern in the scheduling office, because I got the most face time with the actual governor; I sat right outside of his office. I have always thought of politicians as celebrities of sorts, but in working with Representative Perlmutter in the Spring and Governor Polis in the Summer, I realized that they are just normal people trying to advocate for me, my family, my friends, and my neighbors.

The picture above shows the first ever Pride flag displayed on the Colorado State Capitol for the entire month of June. Being there to experience that was one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced, and something I will never forget.

Working on a Presidential Campaign

I was put in a very unique, but lucky situation in the Summer of 2019 in that two politicians from Colorado were running for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, Senator Michael Bennet and former Governor John Hickenlooper. Given that they are both based in Colorado, where I am from, they both had their campaign headquarters in Colorado as well. I decided that it is not everyday you get the opportunity to work on a Presidential campaign, and that while it was available, I was going to take advantage of that. I ultimately decided to work for Governor Hickenlooper as he ran his bid for president. 

I will not lie and say I enjoyed working on the campaign, because the truth is, doing this internship made me realize that campaigning is not for me. I don’t enjoy calling people on the phone for four hours at a time and begging them for money and I don’t like trying to convince people in Iowa or New Hampshire that they should drive over an hour to come hear my candidate speak. The truth is, I would be interested to see what it is like to work on a winning campaign, because the whole time I worked for Hick, I knew that any day he would be dropping out of the race. The man never had a shot.

There were some really cool parts of working on a campaign though. My favorite was debate prep. In order to prepare Hick for the debate stage, members of his staff would pretend to be the other candidates running for the nomination and all of the interns got to be the members audience to make sure he knew what it was going to be like when the real thing came.

Would I work on a campaign again? Not likely, but do I regret this internship? Not one bit! It was so amazing to get to experience something that has always seemed so foreign to me, and I know I will remember the experience forever.

Interning at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

After interning for Congressman Ed Perlmutter on the Hill, Governor Jared Polis at the Colorado Capitol, Governor John Hickenlooper’s presidential campaign, and a DC communications firm, I was left wanting to intern in the legal field. Law internships are hard to come by for undergraduates because confidentiality issues and the legal expertise required lends these opportunities to law students. However, I was lucky enough to receive the opportunity to be a judicial administrative intern in the Chamber of Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson of the District Court for the District of Columbia. This internship has been my favorite thing I have done in my time at American University.

I had many different tasks as a judicial administrative intern. My major tasks were processing new cases on the docket, preparing case checklists for the judge, putting together case folders and binders for the judge during court hearings, preparing travel and event itineraries, and sitting in court hearings. While I actually really enjoyed all of these duties, my favorite was most definitely sitting in court with Judge Jackson and other judges on the circuit.

One of the best hearings I sat in on was actually with Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who was sentencing Trump associate Roger Stone, who was convicted to lying under oath and intimidating witnesses. Because of its connection to the president, this case had received tons of media attention, and as a result, many people wanted to witness the Judge’s decision. The Judge was especially impressive to me because she highlighted that the conviction and sentencing of Stone was not because of his ties to Trump, but rather because he broke the law. No one is above the law. When I got back from watching the sentencing, everyone’s in my Judge Jackson’s chambers was so excited to hear about what I had just witnessed. The Judge even sang “Molly witnessed history” when I came back to the room. We all sat around, and I described to them what happened, they asked questions, and I was able to get clarification about some of the things that I had seen. It was a unique experience that I will never forget.

The other hearing I will never forget was a Motion to Suppress Evidence hearing in a drug case. The background of the case is that a man was in between two vending machines in a laundry room at an apartment complex. Police came into the laundry room, saw him holding a bag with a white, powdery substance, and after struggling with him, arrested him. He was eventually charged with possession of drugs with a weapon, as he had a gun on him. What was interesting about this case was that it turned in to a discussion of the Fourth Amendment, as there was question whether the police had reason to be in the laundry room of a private apartment complex, and thus, the defense argued that the only reason their client was arrested was because of an unreasonable search and seizure. This hearing had two witnesses, a friend of the defendant and the arresting police officer and we got to watch the police officer’s body camera footage. In listening to Judge Jackson’s and Sanchi’s conversation about the Fourth Amendment and whether it was legal for the police to arrest the man, and them letting me ask questions, I learned so much about how constitutional law works, which was fun for me because it is the type of law I am most interested in.