For Sayra Trejo ’18, a double major in Political Science and Communication/Media Studies, the opportunity to serve as a Panetta Institute Congressional intern during the 2017 fall semester was an ideal time for her to be in Washington, D.C.
It was compelling and revealing watching how politics work and how they are covered by media.
“With a political science background, you can learn the theories, but when you actually see it in action or you see those theories not being true, it’s just a fascinating learning experience,” Sayra says.
The venture into the nation’s capital reaffirmed Sayra’s goal of becoming a political reporter. She was assigned to the office of U.S. Congressman Alan Lowenthal representing California’s 47th District and his office accommodated her desires to learn more about the legislative aspect on Capitol Hill and the way media reports on it.
Sayra’s duties included research on different policy issues and connecting with constituents through letters, emails and leading tours of the Capitol at least twice a week.
She also attended and helped Congressman Lowenthal’s press secretary and communications director at press briefings, including a DACA press conference in December and the Gill vs. Whitfield Supreme Court ruling.
Along the way, Sayra met former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on the Capitol steps and had a lengthy conversation with Los Angeles Times national politics writer Cathleen Decker in Congressman Lowenthal’s office. Sayra felt as if she was embedded with reporters and her majors in the School of Liberal Arts and Education had prepared her for the experience.
“It was the best of both worlds,” Sayra says. “It solidified my interest in political reporting. I saw how news happens so quickly and how reporters are out getting the story. I saw the way it intersects with a congressional office or a staffer. I saw the importance of those relationships between the media and our nation’s politics.”
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The Panetta internship capped a remarkable year of traveling for Sayra. She visited Japan thanks to a Roy W. Howard National Collegiate Reporting fellowship from the Indiana University School of Journalism. She then participated in a Campus Ministry immersion trip to the small village Kiganda in Uganda
Now back at Dominican for her final semester, Sayra, a Terra Linda High School graduate, is working on her senior thesis. She is researching Barack Obama presidential political ads in Spanish from 2008-12 to calculate the impact they had.
In addition, Sayra recently started an internship with the San Francisco Business Times. She previously has interned on the assignment desk for KTVU-TV in Oakland and with NPR-affiliate radio station KALW in San Francisco, where she wrote and produced a story about Muir Woods National Monument and environmental concerns.
The Panetta internship served her well, too, as Congressman Lowenthal has placed an emphasis on environmental and education matters.
“Washington D.C. politics for a lot of people feels faraway,” Sayra says. “I was so fortunate to be in the thick of things and see the things I previously had seen only on TV – the Lincoln Memorial, the Capitol, members of Congress. It was an amazing experience.”