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Panetta Scholar Reflects on Historic Time in Washington

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A Supreme Court case regarding LGBTQ workers’ rights, the beginning of a presidential impeachment inquiry and the death of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings.

Meghan Waymire, a Cal State Fullerton political science major, had a front row seat to these historic moments last fall while participating in the Panetta Institute Congressional Internship Program.

One of 26 students selected for the all-expenses-paid program, Waymire  attended two weeks of training at The Panetta Institute for Public Policy in Monterey, California, before completing an 11-week internship in the Washington, D.C., office of U.S. Rep. Susan Davis. There, her responsibilities included assisting with constituent correspondence, conducting tours of the capitol building, attending congressional briefings and hearings, and writing memos based on those meetings.

What inspired you to apply for the Panetta Institute internship?

As a first-generation college student, I came to Cal State Fullerton wanting to take advantage of every opportunity that I could. Associated Students Inc. provided me with many opportunities to serve students on systemwide and statewide levels through Lobby Corps and as the ASI chief governmental officer.

The Panetta Institute seemed like an opportunity to learn about and participate in public service on a larger scale — at the federal level. As someone who works two to three jobs at a time to afford a college education, I never thought moving to D.C. and working on Capitol Hill would be possible for me. However, the Panetta Institute and support of my family, friends and advisers made that a reality.

What will you remember most about your internship?

While in Washington, I felt like I had a front row seat to what will be written in history books and taught in classrooms for years and years. Many of these moments felt sad to me: We are still questioning if a trans individual deserves equal rights; because of extreme partisanship and polarization, the country is divided on how to hold a presidential administration accountable; our nation lost a fierce advocate for civil rights and leader of social justice.

During the memorial for Congressman Cummings, the Morgan State University choir performed a song with the lyrics, “If I can help somebody as I pass along, … then my living shall not be in vain.” While I alone do not have the power to sway a Supreme Court decision, fix partisan divides or solve the countless other issues our nation faces, I do have the power to help somebody. As I continue my journey in public service, I hope to carry this message with me.

How will this experience benefit your future goals?

Thanks to the Panetta Institute and the office of Congresswoman Davis, I learned more about how Washington really works. While extreme partisanship is a real problem, bipartisanship does still exist and does work. I learned what servant leadership looks like, and I learned countless lessons around policy and working for the greater good — all of which I hope to apply to a future career in higher education policy.

Students interested in applying for the 2020 Panetta Institute Congressional Internship should contact Yessica De La Torre, assistant director of assessment and student development, at or 657-278-3201. Applications are due Jan. 31.