13:03 PM

By Bri Phillips

Sacramento Internship Experience Inspires Students

Mariah Wade was only 15 years old when the injuries from a traumatic car accident changed her pathway to her college decision. She bruised a soft tendon between her neck and spinal cord, which affected her ability to walk for almost three weeks. 

Just one year later, Wade got into another car accident that worsened her previous injuries.  

The recovery was a difficult process for Wade. She missed almost a month of her senior year of high school because she could not walk properly. She frequently passed out from her injuries and was required by her high school to finish her last few months of school online, which created more difficulties. 

“My grades had suffered tremendously,” Wade said. “And then I was able to bounce back and still graduate from high school. Cal State San Marcos was caring enough to listen to my story and welcome me, which was really nice.” 

Wade did not know what options she had for college. She was still slowly healing from her injuries and contending with the resulting academic challenges. CSUSM stood out to Wade because she was offered accommodations for her injuries and she was also drawn to the internship opportunities available for students. 

Wade made the most of those opportunities before graduating last month with a bachelor’s in criminology and justice studies. She was one of two CSUSM students who had the opportunity to participate in the Sacramento Semester Program during the spring. For Wade and Jessica Olvera, a business administration student, it meant a chance to gain hands-on experience and build their respective networks.

“My favorite part was the research because I knew it was going somewhere that was going to contribute to change,” Olvera said. 

Wade and Olvera each received 6 semester units for working a minimum of 25 hours per week as interns in Sacramento. There were an additional 6 semester units awarded to participants for completing two seminars. The Sacramento Semester Program offers internship placements in legislatives offices, departments in the executive branch, political associations and lobbyists.

For Olvera, it was the homeless issue in San Diego that led her to the Sacramento Semester Program. 

“I used to work downtown and I would see a lot of people my age or even grown adults or even younger in the streets,” Olvera said. “That really impacted me every time I was walking down the street. I always want to try to volunteer at homeless shelters but it’s never enough, so this is a research topic that I want to continue to do in the future.” 

Olvera was placed in a communications internship where she learned about potential solutions to homelessness and completed legislative work and research on passing bills. Olvera met many of the people she looks up to, including Mialisa Bonta, an assemblymember representing the 18th district in Alameda County, and Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis. 

“Seeing women so powerful and being so secure in themselves and confident and doing all these great things definitely interested me in doing this work,” Olvera said. 

Olvera was offered an opportunity to continue her internship after the program ended with assemblymember Brian Maienschein in San Diego’s 77th district. Olvera is graduating next spring and plans to combine her business degree with a minor in political science to contribute to a solution to homelessness.  

Wade is continuing her public relations internship remotely before attending USC in the fall to complete her master’s in criminology and study for the LSAT in preparation for law school. 

“I had a really fantastic time at the Sacramento Semester Program,” Wade said. “I wish it was elongated because I made so many friends. It was like a second home, because going in there we didn't know anybody at all. My family was 400 miles away from me. And everybody was dealing with the side effects of the pandemic, not talking to many people besides the people who they're really close to. But I believe we became like a family the more we were together. It was really nice.” 

Media Contact

Eric Breier, Public Affairs Specialist

ebreier@csusm.edu | Office: 760-750-7314