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Paige Pelonis at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Paige Pelonis at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Panetta Congressional Intern Experiences Historic Time in Washington, D.C.

I still have the feeling that I scored the jackpot!” says Paige Pelonis, an international studies and journalism double major and President’s Scholar, who spent the fall semester in Washington, D.C. as the campus’s 2013 representative to the annual Congressional Internship Program sponsored by the Panetta Institute for Public Policy.

Paige Pelonis

Paige Pelonis

Each fall semester, the Panetta Institute for Public Policy provides selected California students an intensive two-week training course on the workings of the U.S. Congress. Trainers include elected officials, seasoned government staff, policy experts and Panetta Institute professors explaining how the legislative process works and providing synthesized information on the key issues facing the nation. At the end of the orientation, Pelonis went to Washington, D.C. for 11 weeks of service to a California member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Pelonis was assigned to Congressman Devin Nunes, a Republican from Tulare County who represents California’s 22nd Congressional District.

“It was an exciting time to be working at the heart of the nation,” Pelonis comments, “from shootings and lockdowns, to a government shutdown, it was never dull.”
Being assigned to Congressman Nunes was particularly exciting for Pelonis since the Congressman has seats on both the House Intelligence Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, both of which hold special interest for Pelonis. Pelonis says Congressman Nunes proved to be fairly moderate politically throughout the duration of the government shutdown experience, which she appreciated as she was able to take in a far more accurate impression of the circumstances surrounding the shutdown than some of her fellow interns.

Of her D.C. experience, Pelonis says, “Never in my life have I had as many wonderful experiences strung as closely together as I did over this past semester. Every day was an adventure, from riding the metro, to wandering the U.S. Capitol, to walking the streets and passing by the White House. I still have trouble believing that I really got to do all the things I did.”

Pelonis’ internship responsibilities included answering phone calls and letters from constituents, giving tours of the U.S. Capitol, performing general office tasks and attending legislative hearings. While in D.C., Pelonis and her fellow interns also attended regular weekly seminars, provided by the Panetta Institute, with key administration personnel on different aspects of government policy, ranging from economics to the environment and foreign affairs to defense resources.

Pelonis finished the internship in November and is returning to complete her CSULB studies. She will continue to pursue her interests in theater and creative writing, but more pressingly she plans to seriously progress toward her next intended adventure with the U.S. Navy.

“Meeting former Secretary Panetta was an honor out of my wildest dreams,” Pelonis says of her experience with the Panetta Institute. “He is a true inspiration for me, from his work in defense and other areas of government, to his general interest in providing for the common good of the most people.”