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Capital University News, California State University, Sacramento

September 08, 2003

Intern program puts CAMP students in capitol

As California’s Capital University, CSUS has long been a place where students can get practical experience in government while they’re earning a degree.
CSUS students Evelin Zepeda (left), Juan Mendoza and Alma Prado had political internships their freshmen year through CAMP.   Photo/Sherry Mark
CSUS students Evelin Zepeda (left), Juan Mendoza and Alma Prado had political internships their freshmen year through CAMP.

Photo/Sherry Mark

Now a group of freshmen from the University’s College Assistance Migrant Program are getting into the act. Through a new program started last year called CAMP Scholars, the students are working at internships in the Legislature, district Congressional offices and non-profit organizations.

The students work about 15 hours a week and receive a $2,500 scholarship at the end of their service. There will be 40 CAMP Scholars this year, up from 14 in its first year, and some will be placed with businesses as well.

“I had thought about politics some before I started this, but now I’m much more interested,” says Claudia Ramos of Watsonville. She spent her first year of college last year interning at the State Capitol in the offices of Assemblyman Simon Salinas. “I really realize now how much the bills being considered can affect me.”

For Monica Velazquez of Arbuckle, and Juan Mendoza of French Camp, the program was a chance to really understand the adage that “all politics is local.”

Velazquez worked in the district offices of Congressman Doug Ose and Mendoza worked in the district offices of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer. Their work included answering constituent calls and letters, going to community events and searching for media coverage.

Jessica Ramirez of Yuba City, meanwhile, got some practical advice for a future career as a lawyer. She has interned in the offices of attorney Omar Gonzalez.

“I’ve always known I wanted to be a lawyer,” Ramirez says. “Gonzalez has taught me a lot that isn’t taught in law school – communicating with clients, being polite, seeing different perspectives. It has been a really good experience.”

Students also worked for the United Farmworkers Union, Univision, the State Firefighter Association – even in the offices of past CSUS Associated Students President Eric Guerra.

“I want these students to understand they can help the overall community – to know they can be leaders,” says Marcos Sanchez, director of CAMP. “Whatever they learn about politics directly is a plus, but not the main purpose, which is just teaching them that they can be leaders.”

CAMP is a federally funded program that helps first-year students from migrant and seasonal farm worker backgrounds succeed in college. It offers about 80 students each year such services as assistance with housing, academic advising, tutoring – and now, an internship program that helps financially.

“I’ve had this in mind for a long time,” Sanchez says. “It has just been a matter of finding the funding.”

The financial breakthrough needed to start CAMP Scholars came from the employees of EdFund and the Hispanic Scholarship Program.

Sanchez convinced EdFund employees of the value of the program he was proposing. They then decided to commit $15,000 from their spring golf tournament fund-raiser to the cause, and the Hispanic Scholarship Program provided two-to-one matching funds.

This year, the EdFund employees are doubling their donation, which will lead to a doubled contribution from the Hispanic Scholarship Program as well. That will allow CAMP to offer the internships to about 40 students.

CAMP Scholars is just the latest CSUS program to take advantage of the University’s location in the state capital. Among others are the competitive Capital Fellows Program, which places more than 60 graduate students in paid staff positions in state government, and the Sacramento Semester Program, which offers undergraduate internships in government.

Sanchez says he expects the CAMP Scholars program to get more students excited about opportunities in politics, and become a bridge to one of the other programs.

More information is available by contacting CAMP at 278-7241 or visiting www.csus.edu/camp.

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California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 • infodesk@csus.edu
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California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 • infodesk@csus.edu