Panetta Institute intern Delainey Boyd ’19 came to Dominican from Colorado with a plan: to become a special education teacher and, ultimately, an advocate for special needs children.
“I was the type of person who came into college with a very set idea – a 10-year plan,” Delainey says. “I never expected that I would be able to explore other interests, let alone have those interests blossom into something so big that I would change my career path.”
These past four years Delainey has pushed herself out of her comfort level, guided along the way by a supportive network of faculty and staff in the School of Liberal Arts and Education. She has excelled in not just one, but four fields of study and recently spent a transformative semester in Washington D.C. as another in a long line of Panetta Institute congressional interns from Dominican.
Delainey still wants to make a difference in the lives of children with special needs. She’s just following a different path than the one she set off on.
“I have had a huge support system at Dominican with so many people willing to do literally everything they can do to help me and to encourage me,” she says. “I learned that I should not be afraid of exploring other interests.”
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Delainey started volunteering with special needs students at age 11, continuing the work through her senior year at Colorado’s Fruita Monument High School. She witnessed educational inequity firsthand.
“I saw that special needs students are not always understood. Their needs are so complex, but understanding in America is so low,” she says. “It wasn’t until I was in Washington that I started to understand how through policy we can help ensure equal treatment and education for students with special needs.”
Delainey was introduced to Dominican at college fair in Colorado. Her mom urged her to apply, believing that Dominican’s Marin County location, small class sizes, and focus on hands-on learning would be a good fit.
“My mom said let’s go and look at this school, I think it is the right place for you,” Delainey recalls. “We could only afford to visit one school and it came down to Dominican or a school in New York. I chose to visit Dominican and I fell in love.”
A generous financial offer from Dominican put the university at the top of Delainey’s list. “The fact that they were willing to help be financially was huge,” she says. “I knew they would be willing to help me make my future whatever I wanted it to be.”
The first in her family to attend university, Delainey was determined to take every opportunity to broaden her educational horizons. She joined the Model UN, the Debate Club, and the Political Science Association. Majoring in liberal studies (now education studies), she also added minors in history, Spanish, and political science.
Last year, a friend encouraged her to apply for the prestigious Panetta Institute internship. Political science professors Alison Howard and Christian Dean in the Political Science and International Studies department and Vice President of Student Life Paul Raccanello wrote glowing letters of recommendation.
After spending two weeks at the Panetta Institute for Public Policy in Monterey–often attending talks led by Secretary Panetta–Delainey was assigned to spend the fall semester working in California Congressman Eric Swalwell’s office. There, she did everything from attending briefings and writing summaries for senior staff, to helping with special legislative projects.
“It was a crazy time when I was there—from DACA to the Supreme Court hearings, I got to see a lot of American history being made.”
The experience helped connect the dots between her passion for education and her interest in policy.
“I was always interested in policy, but did not see how it fit into education until my internship,” she says. “I learned a lot about the congressional process and what it takes to get legislation pushed through. Now I see how through policy we can help ensure equal treatment and access to education for those students.”
Today her goal is to focus on education policy and become an advocate for English language learners and students with special needs. She continues to work part-time in Rep. Swalwell’s office. After graduation she plans to move to Washington, D.C.
Her advice for high school seniors just starting their college journey? Be bold.
“Don’t’ be afraid of exploring your interests,” she says. “Many people—especially first-generation students–come to college and believe that they have to be successful right away. I tell them that success will come. If you work hard and are passionate about learning, it will come.”