Congressional Internship Makes Impact on Political Science Grad
By Eric Breier
Camery Smith didn’t have to wait long to learn that she had been selected as Cal State San Marcos’ representative for the annual Panetta Congressional Internship Program.
Learning whether she would get to do the internship in person was another story.
“They were hoping that it was going to be in person, but we didn't really get a guaranteed answer until probably a month or so before we went in August,” said Smith, who graduated in December with a bachelor’s in political science. “They didn't know how it was going to go due to COVID. But I'm glad they were like, ‘We're going to hold out hope.’ And it turned out to be in person. I got to go, and it was a great experience.”
The Panetta Congressional Internship Program annually selects one student from each California State University campus, Dominican University of California, Saint Mary’s College and Santa Clara University. The internship started with an intensive two-week prep period in Monterey at the Panetta Institute, which was founded in 1997 by former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and his wife, Sylvia. Interns then went to Washington, D.C., to work on Capitol Hill for 2½ months. The Panetta Institute covers all program costs, and interns receive 20 semester units.
The 2022 application process is underway, with applications due by 5 p.m. April 1. Interested students are also invited to attend one of the upcoming informational Zoom sessions:
Having successfully navigated the application process herself, Smith encourages interested students to simply give it a shot.
“The advice I would give is just trust yourself,” she said. “The worst that can happen is that it's a no, but why not take the chance of applying? You may be the person who’s nominated for our school.”
Smith had the opportunity to work in the office of Rep. Jimmy Gomez, a Democrat in California’s 34th district, which includes downtown Los Angeles.
“The highlight of the internship for me was getting that in-house experience, actually being able to walk down the halls of the Capitol and seeing congressmen and congresswomen walking down the halls,” Smith said. “It was a professional environment, and I was so excited to dress up every day and get that experience. I had so much fun.
“I was offered so many tasks. They entrusted me to do very important things. But I think I really proved how hard working I was, and I came every day with hard work, dedication, willing to do anything that I could to help the congressman and his policy push forward.”
Smith’s longtime goal has been to attend law school, and she is studying for the LSAT with hopes to start this fall. Georgetown, UCLA and USD are among the schools she is considering.
Smith said the internship experience helped solidify her desire to practice public interest law and remain connected to politics in some fashion.
“The internship is just such a great opportunity,” she said. “I'm grateful. I got a lot of experience working in Congress and working with a congressman in his office. I had fun times on the weekends and made good, lifelong friends. It was such a great experience.”
Eric Breier, Public Affairs Specialist
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