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Making Her Mark in Washington D.C.

March 27, 2014

Yareli Mendoza entered a different world when she flew to Washington, D.C., to begin an internship with the Department of Veterans Affairs' Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs. For the senior political science major, it was the first time she had visited the nation's capital, and she was eager to experience it all.

The Riverside resident has lots of people to talk to about her new experiences: she has six roommates, including a lawyer for the Congressional Black Caucus, and a third-year law student from Michigan.

"To be honest, the biggest surprise has been how well I have adjusted," admitted Mendoza, who now is reaching the three-month mark in her internship. "The White House is not as big as I expected it to be, and I didn't expect to find myself so close to the U.S. senators. I have interacted with several senators, including McCain, Ryan, Feinstein, Rubio and Boxer, in addition to numerous house members.

"I met Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, my second week working on the Hill and was given the honor of being interviewed by her for a congressional position. It was a great feeling knowing that I was considered for a position within her office, although I had not directly applied for one."

Mendoza, an Air Force veteran who was on active duty from 2005 -10 and deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan, learned about the Cal State DC program through the campus Veterans Student Association.

"My job was security forces, which is basically military police," she explained. "I had a strong interest in politics prior to joining the military. In high school, I worked and volunteered for local political campaigns. Once I separated from the military, the only degree that interested me was political science."

The lead to the internship in Veterans Affairs came from Adam Anicich, assistant director of the VA Congressional Liaison Service and whose father, Christopher, teaches marketing in the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics. "He reached out to Dr. Hill (Sarah Hill, director of the Cal State DC program), who recommended me for the position," Mendoza recalled.

"Working for the Veterans Affairs Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs has been such a rewarding experience," she said. "The environment is fast-paced, and I am constantly learning something new.

"I work on a small team with four individuals. My colleagues consist of experts in their respective fields, and we work closely with congressional staff by assisting with constituent case work," Mendoza said. "I am lucky to be immersed in such a rich learning environment."

One of the things Mendoza noted is the variety of her daily duties.

"I am encouraged to freely participate in congressional events, such as briefings, hearings and receptions," she said. "My supervisors also ensure that I am assigned tasks that relate to the Department of Veterans Affairs' mission of helping veterans. When I am performing duties specific to Veterans Affairs, I assist with resolving constituent concerns, press releases, data entry and escorting high-level Veterans Affairs officials around the Capitol.

"My most fulfilling moments include training new VA employees on essential job duties, proving to my leadership that I am capable of effectively executing this position," said Mendoza, who would like to become an attorney and work for the Veterans Affairs Office of the General Counsel. "I believe that this experience has equipped me with the skills to succeed in whatever direction I choose to steer my career."

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