OutPower

Endings, Beginnings – Daria Nastasia

OUT ON THE HILL is the official blog of the Victory Congressional Interns. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of LGBTQ Victory Institute. Learn more about the internship at victoryinstitute.org/vci

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With my Victory Congressional Internship coming to an end, I have begun to reflect on the entirety of my experience which started with my application in September of last year. After the application, which now feels so long ago, I went through the interview process and was subsequently delighted to find out that I was accepted into the program. Since then, I have completed one of the most rewarding life experiences that I have ever had the opportunity to take part in. The lessons, workshops, and meetings that the LGBTQ Victory Institute has provided me over the past three months have allowed me to not only obtain a better understanding of what I would like to do in the future, but also to better connect my professional goals with my identity as an LGBTQ individual.

Based on my policy-making experiences in the Victory Congressional Internship and elsewhere, I have gained insight into the responsibilities of an elected official in the U.S. Congress. These responsibilities pertain to representing the interests and protecting the rights of constituents at the federal level as well as to proposing legislation that has the capability to increase the welfare and wellbeing of people locally. By interning for Representative Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), I have had the opportunity to see first-hand the high effort involved in ensuring that the work done by elected representatives, especially in advocating for progressive ideals, is and remains of the people and for the people.

Listening to constituents is one of the core responsibilities that the office of a Congressperson has to undertake. Following the process of carefully listening to constituents’ issues, concerns, and questions, a congressional office has to acknowledge what constituents are preoccupied by. Throughout my time as an intern, I witnessed such engagement with the community by writing letters on issues constituents are concerned about such as water safety, healthcare, wage growth, and pandemic control, observing staffers helping constituents with casework, reopening tours in order to connect constituents with the workings of government, sending out emails, and taking phone calls. Prior to the internship, I did not fully understand how busy the life of an elected representative is or  how involved some constituents are – particularly those who call or email often to voice their opinions and concerns. I strongly believe that such interactions are vital to democracy and should continue to expand.

My experience as a congressional intern has led me to believe that good legislation can only result from this process starting with constituent listening and acknowledgement and  proceeding with initiative and collaboration towards legislative proposals. I have also come to believe that it is among the most important duties of those elected to Congress to consider how individuals face life challenges based on gender, sexuality, skin color, ethnic background, ability, immigration status, or socioeconomic status, and to contribute to identifying solutions for easing such hurdles. 

In our professional development workshops through the Victory Institute, we were able to better understand not only why such representation matters, but also meet so many incredible people who are actively pushing for change. Through our meetings with Victory President & CEO Mayor Annise Parker, our Grassroots Organizing conversation with Ryan Wilson of the Human Rights Campaign, our Out in Government & Campaigns Panel with James Chang, Stephanie Medina, and Ryan Schaefer, and so many other incredible opportunities provided by the Victory Institute, we were able to have a seat at the table and be inspired by our discussions.

Although my time at the LGBTQ Victory Institute Congressional Internship Program is coming to an end , I know that my journey is far from over, and I will be using the lessons learned from the experience throughout my college life and professional career.