OutPower

Increasing Diversity on Capitol Hill – 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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For undergraduate students like me with an interest in a future career related to politics or government, an internship on Capitol Hill is the ultimate opportunity to gain the firsthand experience needed for such a career. As a current sophomore at the George Washington University with a double major in Political Science and in Journalism and Mass Communication, I have been frequently made aware that other students around me not only hold this type of internship to high regard, but also feel the pressure to compete towards securing such an opportunity. I have felt fortunate to be selected as an intern for the Victory Congressional Internship Program and be matched with Congressperson Jamaal Bowman’s office who represents New York’s 16th Congressional District.

So far, working as a Congressional intern in this program has felt like a surreal experience that is constantly filled with new and exciting activities and perspectives. This professional pursuit is much different than previous ones I’ve had by allowing me to explore the fast paced work environment of the Hill and be a member of a cohort of queer-identifying interns where I also benefit from the safe space of the LGBTQ Victory Institute. 

The diverse and inclusive culture I have encountered at the LGBTQ Victory Institute characterizes Rep. Bowman’s office as well. I was glad to be placed in a congressional office that not only promotes progressive policies striving to advance the interests of historically underprivileged groups and to increase social equity, but also seeks to foster an environment that is nurturing and supportive for everyone. Such an environment, in which diverse voices are heard and valued and in which I can feel comfortable contributing to policy-making processes while also increasing my abilities needed for a successful policy related career, is very important for me as an LGBTQ young person. 

I’ve come into direct contact with the legislative processes through my internship in Rep. Bowman’s office which I only experienced through student simulations in the past. Although I have only been into the Longworth House Office Building twice since the start of the internship as most of my work takes place virtually, I hit the ground running with my tasks thanks to a meticulously crafted onboarding plan, which gave me all the information I needed in regards to answering phone calls, writing letters to constituents, and interacting with the welcoming staff in the office.

I am not only able to collaborate with many incredible LGBTQ individuals as part of the internship cohort that meets at the LGBTQ Victory Institute on Friday of each week, but I have also been assigned mentors who share their own experiences with me and provide valuable advice in order to help me grow as a person and professional. This type of environment is very meaningful to me, as I did not have this kind of experience growing up as a first-generation immigrant and LGBTQ teen in Missouri or during my first year in college. 

During the most recent professional development workshop at the LGBTQ Victory Institute, we had the opportunity to talk to Victory staff and Victory Congressional Internship alumni and discuss  motivates us to pursue civic action through our diverse perspective to shape policy dialogues. It is due to experiences such as those offered through the LGBTQ Victory Institute and Representative Jamaal Bowman’s office that college students from minority groups gain confidence to develop the competencies necessary for successful careers in politics and government. Being part of this program has reinforced my own belief that an LGBTQ individual like myself deserves to be included in decision making spaces.