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STEP Students Connect with Alumni on Capitol Hill

The 2014 STEP group on Capitol Hill.

Photo by Patrick Bradley.

Climbing the Hill

When Olimar Rivera Noa recently entered the marble halls of Capitol Hill’s senate offices, she thought of home—more than 1,500 miles away in Puerto Rico. 

An incoming freshman, Rivera Noa joined some 30 other students from AU’s STEP Program to meet and hear from a panel of alumni now working on the Hill. Like many from the summer transition program, the panel members’ words resonated with her.

“I liked having people in my position and now they are here talking to me about their experience. That makes me feel like I can be there eventually,” she said. “It was very helpful.”

Rivera Noa immediately connected with panel member George Laws Garcia (SIS/MA ’09) on the topic of representing Puerto Rico in Congress. Laws Garcia serves as a legal assistant in the Puerto Rican representative’s office, something that piqued Rivera Noa’s interest.

Similarly, incoming freshman Adrianna Juarez leaned in to hear Rebecca Nuzzi (SIS/BA, ’11) talk about balancing work as a U.S. senate committee research associate with a social life that includes playing ultimate Frisbee. Juarez was relieved to hear that people on the Hill have hobbies just like her, and she was even more motivated to pursue internships during her time at AU.

“It was really interesting to see how they were able to get where they are and what kind of things they took advantage of at AU to get to where they are,” she said of the alumni panel. “It gave me a guide on how to get there eventually because I’m interested in this type of work.”

Steps by STEP

Isaac Agbeshie-Noye is the assistant director for student success and retention at AU’s Center for Diversity & Inclusion. As part of his role, he oversees STEP—or the Summer Transition Enrichment Program, which supports multicultural and first-generation college students as they join the university.

During the seven-week program, these students take writing courses, meet with advisors and professors, and grow as a community before their four years on campus even begin. And then there are field trips like the one to the Hill, meant to get students thinking about education and career goals.

“It’s important for them to see how things happening up here can affect their everyday lives,” Agbeshie-Noye explained. “It’s worthwhile for them to understand how they can influence and not be the person on TV and not be the person that’s giving the speech. That’s key for them to see now, while they’re still early in their career development.”

It’s a notion that wasn’t lost on Juarez, who hopes to work in the political sphere someday. “It made all of those things I want to do tangible because I’ve seen that people have been through what I have, were in my shoes, and now they’re there,” she said. “It solidified a lot of my aspirations.”

For Rivera Noa, STEP has been the piece that made AU quickly feel like a home away from her island home. “I love it. I feel very comfortable here. I didn’t visit the university or Washington before coming,” she said. “I love the campus. I love all the resources they have, the opportunities, the diversity.”

Early Transitions

As STEP winds down and students look toward the start of their first semester in college, Agbeshie-Noye hopes the program has provided them everything they need to move steadily from the classroom to Capitol Hill, just like those students from the alumni panel.

“STEP is important because every college student should have the opportunity to succeed and realize their goals,” he said. “STEP is designed to give them the tools they need in order to build the confidence and behaviors that they feel they too are entitled to an AU education.”

Meanwhile, Rivera Noa will be considering those senate marble halls and what she can do for her native Puerto Rico while at AU. She hopes to intern in her congressman’s office, but for now she’s just excited about what she’s learning each day on campus with her tight cohort of STEP students.

“I’ve met people from many places. I think that makes the college experience more enriching because you’re not just learning about your major or minor, you’re learning about everything—other countries, other cultures,” she said. “That’s making my transition much easier than I thought it would be.”