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Student Leader Serves as Panetta Scholar

Communications Major Interning in Washington, D.C.

Oct. 9, 2013

One day, Kimberly G. Flores, 19, hopes to be delivering the news from Washington, D.C., as a broadcast journalist. But first, she is learning about the day-to-day workings of the nation's capital as this year's Cal State Fullerton representative in the Leon and Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy Congressional Internship program. The junior from Oxnard is working in the office of Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-San Fernando Valley).

"In the few months I've been here, I've learned so much about the issues that people care about. I see how diverse our country is and how decisions are made. I've even been able to conduct research on the benefits of reforming our immigration system," she says of her experience.

Flores attends five to six legislative briefings weekly with topics ranging from the budget, sequestration, health care, educational and public safety.

She has gone to the House floor for a seminar with the House parliamentarian, met a number of members of Congress ... and will even make a cameo appearance in a Cesar Milan ("Dog Whisperer") documentary on public misconceptions about pit bulls.

"This internship provides hands-on experience in a Congressional office and you get a deeper appreciation of how the legislative process works," Flores said. "We are able to learn from professionals in specific policy issue areas."

Prior to their arrival in the nation's capital, the Panetta Fellows spend two weeks at CSU Monterey Bay where the Panetta Institute is headquartered, learning from political leaders, including former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta, about the inner workings of our political system.

Flores, the first in her family to attend college, has been a student leader on campus since her freshman year.

"It was hard for my mom when I moved out of our home at age 17 to come to Cal State Fullerton," she said. "And she struggled with the idea that I was going to be living on the East Coast for several months. But they are really proud of me. They tell me almost every day how much they miss me but they know how important this is to me."

She credits faculty members Robert Quezada and Brent Foster for encouraging and challenging her to pursue a career in journalism.

"They challenged me to see both sides of a story and prepared me for job in either print or broadcast journalism," she said. "Working in Washington, D.C., helps provide the perspective and understanding that will allow me to better understand the political process."

"Kimberly is a great student who truly understands that in order to make meaningful systemic change that will benefit our communities, it has to be done at the policy level," said Victor M. Rojas, student employment and external partnership programs coordinator and one of Flores' mentors. "The work she is doing through the Panetta Institute will help her obtain the skills to one day be the change agent she is looking to become."

Upon completing her bachelor's degree, Flores plans to pursue a master's degree in public policy to continue to gain knowledge and be in a better position to compete for broadcast journalism jobs in D.C.

"Politics fascinate me," she said. "I'm so thankful for the opportunities that the Panetta Institute and Cal State Fullerton have offered me. This is a dream come true."

For more information about CSUF's Panetta selection process, contact Rojas, 657-278-3137.

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