March 21, 2018 | Hello everyone! This semester is flying by! There's only a month left, yet I feel like I just got here. I have really enjoyed and explored so much of D.C. and it has really been such an amazing experience, especially as a political science major. Our nation's capital is where all important political agendas are created and pushed and where our democracy can flourish. I saw this first hand at the beginning of the semester at the Women's March and now again for the March for Our Lives. These two experiences have been an incredible way to connect with so many people who want real change and act on it. Along with the activism, my class allows me to meet and learn from the people that help Washington function everyday. There are so many grassroots organizations that start from passion and a need for change that are so inspiring to learn from.
March for Our Lives was a beautiful rally populated with such diversity of age and origin. It was focused not only on massive school shootings, but on everyday shootings that occur in cities around our country. The speakers were all young adults and children who experienced gun violence first hand. The age of the speakers was inspirational, as they will lead the charge for their generation and create change through action. Along with the speakers, those who participated in the march were supportive and believed in the cause. Gun violence has been an issue in our country for many years and finally there is more attention to it than ever before. I am so proud that I was able to participate in such a historical moment.
Passion and anger from issues like gun violence are what spark grassroots organizations and reform. The March for Our Lives tied in very well with my class this past week. We visited a variety of institutes that worked to improve education reform and children in nature. These topics are rooted in passion and effect citizens everyday. Education reform was a theme seen at the March, students criticized the overwhelming amount of standardized tests while gun owners were not even tested. Education is a bipartisan issue that my class was able to discuss with Jennifer Marshall, Vice President at the Heritage Foundation. Jennifer Marshall gave us insight to why the issue of education is so complicated, as well as reforms she and her team believe are the best way to reform education. We also visited the National League of Cities to discuss the lack of connection children have with nature. This is an increasing epidemic as technology overpowers our everyday lives. Children are not spending as much time outside which leads to lower performance in school and an inability to pay attention. Priya Cook, who is the Principal Associate of Connecting Children to Nature, spoke to my class about how it is such a problem that even doctors are physically writing prescriptions that tell kids to spend thirty minutes outside each day to improve their health.
These past few weeks have been the one of the most enriching ones I have experienced here in D.C. I was also able to visit a detention facility in Howard County for my internship. This allowed me to interact face to face with immigrants I could be working with and helping in the upcoming weeks.
March 7, 2018 | Hello everyone! These past two weeks have been more challenging as we approach midterm season. However, this also means the weather is getting warmer, and that is something to look forward to.
My seminar class was more difficult this week. We learned about campaign finance and all the court cases that were involved in the creation of the campaign finance system that we have today. We spoke critically about the current campaign finance structure and how we can work to change it. There are many loopholes that allow for corporations or other entities to have more influence on a campaign than intended. Tara Malloy, the Senior Director of Appellate Litigation and Strategy of the Campaign Legal Center, spoke to our class in depth and provided some clarity on a challenging topic. Along with campaign finance, we also learned about communications within the White House. David Almacy, White House Digital Director for President George W. Bush, spoke to us about the dynamic changes of communications throughout the years as technology develops. He showed us a screenshot of the very first White House website and it was interesting to see how much has changed in digital design.
During my internship at Capital Area Immigrants' Rights, I continued to perform translations and was able to talk to some of the families of detainees. The families of detainees can call our coalition to ask questions and we do our best to assist them. I have learned a lot about immigration law by researching and answering their questions. Along with speaking to families, I have worked on messages for the detainees during "intake review" which is looking over new information on recently detained immigrants. We look over their intake and decide what kind of relief, if any, that they are eligible for.
I continue to enjoy my semester in Washington, D.C. I'm excited to take advantage of all the Citi Bikes around the city as the temperature rises.
February 22, 2018 | Hello, everyone!
These past two weeks have been very rewarding. I have been getting more responsibilities at my internship, and in class we have continued to see a variety of people - from Congressmen to lobbyists from both parties. The last two weekends were also relaxing and fun, I was able to go home for two consecutive weekends, and I also went to a gala at the Italian Embassy!
I am so grateful to be a part of the American Politics class with Professor Semiatin. He has so many connections in DC, and our class has had many interesting speakers. These past two weeks, we met with two House members: Representatives Costello and Gutierrez. I especially enjoyed our conversation with Representative Gutierrez, as the most important issue to him is immigration - which relates to the work I am doing at my internship. I was able to gain insight on what he thinks about how the new administration is handling immigration, and it better informed me for the work that I am doing on the legal side of things. We also met with a former Hill staff member who offered great advice to many of my classmates who hope to work there. All of these speakers are very enlightening, and I am very appreciative that they took time out of their busy schedules to talk with us.
My internship has been very fulfilling. I have translated written documents, translated live for lawyers speaking to detainees, and been a friend of the court for a detainee we are assisting to self-represent. CAIR Coalition visits 6 different facilities in Maryland and Virginia, where we do intakes for all the new detainees and follow-ups. Every week we can have intake numbers ranging from 12 to 50 depending on the jail. Most of the detainees that we talk to and assist speak Spanish, so I have a lot of opportunities to improve my second language. I really enjoyed acting as a translator, especially because I was able to interact with the detainees and the lawyers. Moreover, being a part of the court process was a very interesting experience. I spoke to the judge and aided the detainee by giving the judge important documents they needed.
My past two weekends were a good mixture of work and fun. I am fortunate that American University is offering a GRE class, so my first weekend I went home and reviewed while spending quality time with my family. Last weekend, my friends and I participated in the DCDPR event called the Healthy Heart Walk, and then we attended a gala at the Italian Embassy. At the gala there was ballroom dancing, an opera show, and an assortment of Italian desserts. It was a very cool experience to be invited into their space and to step onto Italian soil.
February 8, 2018 | Hello everyone, my name is Lisa Surraco and I am a senior at Franklin and Marshall College. I decided to participate in the Washington Semester Program because as a government major I thought D.C. would be the best place to study and would have amazing opportunities. I am taking the American Politics seminar and I am interning at CAIR coalition, which is an organization that works with detained immigrants. I will be working hard this semester while doing extremely rewarding work.
I am fortunate to be in a class in which we often travel downtown and meet with a variety of speakers. We have already gone to the CATO institute, AEI and the NRCC. At each event we learn from top experts how their organization works or the new research that they are working on. I am most pleased that we have and will continue to visit a diverse group of organizations. I feel this is the best way to learn and understand all parts of politics.
I have been working at my internship for a week and am learning a lot about how everything works. I am excited to prepare for and participate on jail visits, work with detained immigrants, and understand the legal aspects of asylum and deportation. It's a unique opportunity as I learn an aspect of immigration law that is not commonly addressed: the rights of immigrants once behind bars. Whether they are here legally or not, once an immigrant gets detained their rights quickly diminish. These offenses aren't always the most serious and can range from fishing without a proper license to assault. I am eager to learn about how these cases are handled and what their outcomes are.
D.C. is a beautiful city to explore. I have had two weekends here and have been able to see D.C. in full swing. I participated with my fellow classmates in the Women's March on January 21, 2018. The protest was very empowering and I'm proud to say I was a part of it. I have also visited a variety of museums-all free! I especially enjoyed the botanical gardens, can't wait to go back to them when it's warmer.