Through a generous grant from the Comcast Foundation, and in partnership with the California LGBT Legislative Caucus, EQCAI is able to sponsor once-in-a-lifetime paid legislative fellowships for California college students with a passion for LGBT advocacy.
This year’s summer class of six Comcast fellows spent four weeks in Sacramento legislative offices to experience policymaking first-hand. From June 6 through July 1, fellows engaged in the legislative process and met with LGBT and allied community members, prominent lobbyists, and leaders to learn about how advocacy and public service can be transformed into meaningful changes for all of our diverse communities.
This year’s impressive group of fellows included:
The Comcast Fellowship offers a unique combination of practical experience, exposure to new perspectives and potential career paths, and networking opportunities. We asked the fellows to reflect on what they gained from the program. Here are a few highlights.
Each fellow gained practical experience at the heart of California politics and played active parts in the legislative process. “I LOVED my placement [with Speaker Anthony Rendon’s Office]. Such an exciting, dynamic, and widespread office that showed me almost every aspect of the state assembly,” said Joseph. He pointed to personal interactions with assembly office staffers and the days he spent in a district office as highlights of his fellowship experience.
Raquel highlighted her time on the floor of the legislature, meetings that she attended, and learning about all the work that goes into Assembly bills as highlights of the practical aspects of the fellowship. Ibilola noted that she gained research and writing experience that helped her to better understand how legislative language is crafted. The fellows were able to build upon their practical experiences to see the ‘big picture’. As Ibilola put it, “[w]orking within Assemblymember Evan Low’s office, and having lunches and dinners with various people in and around the capitol, taught me so much about the institutional measures in place that can be employed to create change.”
Legislative staff incorporated fellows directly into the machinery of the office in order to ensure a hands-on experience. “I was engaged directly on executive-level projects in the Secretary of State’s office, not just given busy ‘intern’ work,” Anthony said. Alan shared similar sentiments – the “legislative office [of Assemblymember Tony Thurmond] was amazing. Everyone was very welcoming and answered all the questions I had. They treated me as one of their own staffers and not just like a simple intern. They even took me out to lunch on the last day, which was a great experience.”
The Comcast Fellowship often opens doors to new perspectives and career paths. Anthony’s experience is one example. As he put it, “I really appreciated my placement. I got the opportunity to experience the executive division of a statewide agency, rather than a legislative office. I was hoping to gain a different perspective than I had before, and in my placement I received that.”
“It really was an eye-opening experience,” Ibilola said about the Comcast Fellowship. Ibilola was able to connect her experience in Sacramento to her goals at home. Specifically, she learned “how community outreach and social justice also interacts with law and politics and how to become more effective organizers and leaders within our various communities.”
Joseph described the fellowship as “the most impactful experience in my life career wise. In this program I have been exposed to so many different aspects and opportunities within State Government… Additionally, through my placement I was introduced to a new side of government that perfectly blended my interests in politics, event planning, and public relations. I was introduced to the perfect blend in a job I never knew existed previously! Everyone I worked with and met was so excited, open, and happy to work with the fellows.”
The fellowship is about more than engaging young leaders in the immediate process of making law and policy—it is also about forging community connections that will have a lasting impact on both the fellows and their future work. Anthony remarked upon this latter objective by saying, “I also honestly underestimated how helpful and profound the [scheduled networking] lunches and dinners turned out to be.” He believes that meeting LGBT people who play such a variety of roles in the capitol will affect his journey in Sacramento and beyond.
Comcast fellows are able to harness the fellowship’s connections in their future public service work. “I loved my assigned office [with Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez]. I really appreciated being placed in my district’s Capitol office,” said Iliana, who is looking forward to staying in touch with people she met through her placement as she returns to her work as a community organizer, and she is now considering applying for a PhD program.
Joseph wrote an additional note to summarize the fellowship’s impact by saying, “I just wanted to take a moment and thank you all for setting up and funding these incredible networking opportunities.” He added, “I have been able to meet so many interesting, connected, and passionate individuals that have already helped me think about future careers and opportunities in life.”
EQCAI is grateful for the ability to provide this experience for tomorrow’s LGBT leaders, each of whom is already a leader today.