Panetta Institute Intern's Experience Is Over The Top

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As a Panetta Institute intern for Congressman Salud Carbajal this fall semester, Johana Jaimes ’23 of Dominican University of California assisted in policy research, conducted legislative research, processed constituent correspondence, and attended briefings and hearings on behalf of the Congressman’s office.

Johana’s experience took her to new heights – literally and figuratively.

“One of the most memorable experiences I have had in my time with the office was getting the opportunity to be escorted by Congressman Carbajal on a tour of the Capitol Dome,” says Johana, who completed her internship in Washington, D.C. last week. “Capitol Dome tours are only available for members of Congress. Climbing to the top of the dome was such a surreal experience and something I will never forget.”

Her valuable experiences in Washington, D.C. reaffirmed Johana’s decision to come to Dominican. She graduated from Middle College High School, a contemporary high school program in San Pablo that allows its students to take high school and college courses in tandem. Johana earned enough credits in the four years there to graduate with her AA and transfer to Dominican as a junior.

She was a step ahead on her career path.

“Public policy and public service are very important aspects of politics that I hope to center my career around,” Johana says. “Obtaining opportunities to further my knowledge of the nuances of public service is a fundamental part of building a better understanding of the subject. Through the Panetta program, I have been able to build connections with those already working in this industry.”

Johana is a double major in political science and international studies. She has been motivated and committed to public service through volunteer work assisting lower-income communities who do not have access to the resources they need to thrive. Many of these issues, she says, originate from a lack of government involvement in lower-income areas and there are feelings of abandonment within these communities. Johana believes that she has a social responsibility to aid those in need.

“As a child of immigrants, politics have played a very prominent role in my life. I was able to see the intersection between policy, economics, culture, race, and class through my lived experience,” she says. “I believe that for impactful and meaningful changes to be made in our legislative system approaching policy with the understanding that this intersection exists is essential. My goal is to better my understanding of this concept which motivated me to choose political science and international studies as my majors.”

Professor Alison Howard, chair of Dominican’s Department of Political Science and Division of Public Affairs in the School of Liberal Arts and Education, has thus far been the most influential person to help Johana achieve her goals. It was Alison who notified Johana that she had been selected for the Panetta Institute Congressional internship, which Johana calls “life-changing.”

“Alison has continued to provide me with wonderful support in all of my endeavors and pushed me to grow,” Johana says. “She has shown me what kindness and determination can look like.”
Professor Howard believes that Johana will be returning to Washington at some point to pursue a future that is dedicated to public service.

“Johana is a bright, caring, and curious young woman who showed a passion for public service and an interest in the policymaking process prior to going to Washington, D.C.,” Professor Howard says. “Since being in Washington and interning on the Hill, she has developed even more interests and has explored new possibilities for careers and further education.”

To prepare for her first trip to Washington and the 11-week internship, Johana reached out to two previous Panetta interns from Dominican – Julia Reinhard '22 and Allison Kustic '21. Johana is also thankful for the opportunity to see Congressman Adam Schiff when he spoke in Angelico Concert Hall last year on campus in the Institute for Leadership Studies’ Lecture Series with Book Passage.

“It was my very first time attending any lecture event at Dominican,” Johana says. “Hearing the Congressman speak about the need for youth participation in politics pushed me to want to get involved. It also helped validate my decision to come to Dominican. I would not be able to have access to these types of opportunities if I wasn't here.

“My experience at Dominican has been rewarding and insightful. Being able to accomplish all that I have in such a short amount of time makes me feel like I am heading in the right direction for my future career goals,” Johana adds. “I have learned how to adapt to so many diverse environments through each course, program, and internship that I have been fortunate to experience at Dominican.”

In addition, Johana is grateful she was assigned to the office of Congressman Carbajal for her Panetta Institute internship. He represents the 24th District of California, encompassing Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and parts of Ventura County.

“I was ecstatic to find out I would be joining his team in D.C.,” Johana says. “He has played a major hand in passing legislation that positively impacts members of the Central Coast.”

Over the past two decades Dominican has led numerous students to Panetta Institute internships including:

  • Julia Reinhard ’22.  Currently working on local campaigns and will join Marin County Supervisor-elect, Mary Sackett's staff.
  • Allison Kustic '21. After interning for then-Senator Kamala Harris’ Sacramento office and Marin County Supervisor Katie Rice, Allison is working as a Legislative Assistant for Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez in Sacramento. Allison staffs numerous issues, including Housing, Transportation, Natural Resources, Elections and Redistricting, and the Judiciary. She is pursuing a Master's in Public Policy and Public Administration at Cal State Sacramento. 
  • Allison Popovits '20 is general manager for CarWash Unlimited.
  • Delainey Boyd '19 earned an MA in Education Policy at George Washington University and is working as the Associate with the Phi Beta Kappa Society’s National Arts and Sciences Initiative.
  • Sayra Trejo '18, a double major in communications and political science, finished her first year of a two-year teaching fellowship at The Thacher School in Ojai.
  • Samantha Hunt '18, a double major in political science and international studies, interned as an immigration assistant at E&M Mayock and then spent two years as field representative in the California State Assembly before being admitted as a J.D. candidate at Vanderbilt School of Law.  She interned at Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands and the Brennan Center for Justice.
  • Crisha Carlos '16, a double major in business and political science, is a Financial Reporting Analyst for Ross Stores, Inc.
  •  Kelsea Vaughan '15 is in the final term of her MBA at Trinity College in Dublin, where she is a Social Impact Scholarship student and recently finished a strategic consulting project for Square's EU marketing team.
  • Daniela Levya '14 completed her Master’s in Library Science at San Jose State University.
  • Sydney Lewis '13, a double major in political science and English, currently serves as the Director of Policy and Advocacy for Improve Your Tomorrow (IYT). IYT is a Sacramento-based educational non-profit focused on men of color who attend and graduate from colleges and universities.
  • Luke Webster-White '12 is a Program Coordinator for the County of Sonoma.
  • Caitlin Vejby '11, a double major in political science and international studies, most recently worked as a Legislative Aide for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
  • Juleah Cordi '10 is Senior District Representative for California State Assembly Member James Gallagher. 
  • Darcel Sanders '09, a double major in political science and psychology, is CEO of GO Public Schools, a nonprofit organization that promotes equitable education systems and transformational public schools.
  • Kat Skiles '07 has had key jobs with Nancy Pelosi and Beto O’Rourke in her career. Today she is CEO and Video Producer of Narrative Creative Agency. Kat recently was named to Fortune magazine’s “Top 40 Under 40” list.
  • Mel Atkins  '06 & ’10, a Dominican Trustee, is Associate Vice President, Financial Advisor, Morgan Stanley.
  • Molly Starr '02 Department Chair of the Social Studies Department at Nevada Union High School.

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