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Congressional Staff-CHCI Alumni April 2012

Congressional Staff-April 2012 Alumni of the Month

 

This month, CHCI profiles three CHCI Alumni congressional staffers that were recently elected as Executive Board members of the Congressional Hispanic Staff Association: Bertha Guerrero, President, Marvin Figueroa, Vice President and Maria Urbina, Programming Director.

Maria Urbina
Carson City, NV
Legislative Correspondence Manager, Office of Senator Harry Reid (D-NV)
CHCI Fellowship 2008-09: Office of Senator Harry Reid, Latino and Asian Affairs

What have you been doing since you finished the CHCI program?

Upon the completion of my public policy fellowship in the spring of 2009, I was hired on staff to be a Legislative Correspondent (LC) covering issues such as public lands and natural resource management, labor, gaming, immigration and civil rights. A year and half later, I was asked to join the re-election efforts in Nevada, serving as the Friends for Harry Reid Northern Nevada Latino and Asian Outreach Coordinator. After a successful re-election campaign for the most watched campaign of the 2010 cycle, I returned to DC to resume my position as an LC. Shortly after my return, I was promoted to manage the Senator’s legislative correspondence corps and robust mail system. I continue to work on my issues as an LC, and enjoy being part of Team Reid.

What impact did your CHCI experience have on your career and the opportunity to work in Congress?

Naturally, without the financial and professional backing of the CHCI program and staff, I would have been extremely limited in my abilities to work on the Hill and expand my network. Every step of the way CHCI and its many networks provided guidance, support and friendship.

What advice would you give current and future CHCI participants, especially those who also wish to work in Congress?

My advice to CHCI familia on the Hill is to be good stewards of the CHCI name, and get to know those outside of the CHCI network to balance out your professional and personal well- being in Congress.

Marvin Figueroa
Bronx, New York
Legislative Aide, Office of Senator Mark Warner (D-VA)
CHCI Fellowship 2010-11: White House, Office of Public Engagement & Office of Senator Mark Warner

What have you been doing since you finished the CHCI program?

Following the fellowship, I took a permanent position in the office of Senator Mark Warner as a Legislative Correspondent.  I have since been promoted to Legislative Aide, handling healthcare and education, and the lead person on immigration policy.  In this capacity, I meet with constituents on behalf of the Senator, research and develop policy proposals, and drafts legislation. I was recently appointed to Senator Warner’s liaison to the Hispanic community, and I am now responsible for ensuring that the growing Virginia Hispanic community is able to inform the work of the Senator.

What impact did your CHCI experience have on your career and the opportunity to work in Congress?

The fellowship provided the opportunity to gain a federal perspective on the disparities we see in education and healthcare, and surrounded me with policymakers, thought leaders, and high ranking officials committed to creating solutions.  My participation in the program sharpened my ability to view things from an interdisciplinary lens, equipping me with the understanding that in every public policy discussion there are multiple layers to consider.  This is a skill I continue to use.

What advice would you give current and future CHCI participants, especially those who also wish to work in Congress?

Just be bold.  I believe too many smart, young people often level their expectations because they lack positive role models.  This was the case for me at one point.  Now, if there is no one where I aspire to be, I create my own blueprint.  You just have to have faith—both in God and in yourself.

Bertha Guerrero
Santa Ana, California
Legislative Assistant, Office of Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva
CHCI Fellowship 2009-10: Office of Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva

What have you been doing since you finished the CHCI program?

Following the fellowship, I was offered a permanent position in the office of Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-07) as a Legislative Assistant. In this capacity I serve as the policy advisor for the Congressman in the areas of immigration, border security, human rights, and foreign affairs.  I also was recently elected to President of the Congressional Hispanic Staff Association Executive Board, a non-partisan Congressional Staff Organization whose primary purpose is to increase the number of Hispanic staffers in Congress and to promote career development and advancement opportunities for current Hispanic staffers.

I am honored to serve as President of CHSA—an organization that has made a tremendous impact in increasing the recruitment, retention and development of a more diverse workforce on Capitol Hill.  I look forward to working with the newly elected Executive Board, our membership, and all our partners in advancing CHSA’s mission and am eager to see the exciting directions the organization will take in this coming year.

What impact did your CHCI experience have on your career and the opportunity to work in Congress?

Through the CHCI Public Policy Fellowship, I gained hands-on experience in federal policy decision-making that is essential to my work in Capitol Hill. My primary focus throughout the program was to address healthcare, education, affordable housing and immigration issues, and through this experience I was able to include these needed skills for my career in federal government.

What advice would you give current and future CHCI participants, especially those who also wish to work in Congress?

The most impressive aspect of CHCI's program was having the opportunity to engage and interact with prominent Latina/o Leaders and Latina/o Community Partners.  Having the opportunity to engage with these leaders was empowering. These leaders have paved the way for the leaders of tomorrow, and it was a great honor to partake in such an insightful and empowering program.  I strongly encourage current and prospective CHCI participants to really enjoy and utilize every resource the CHCI program has available for its program participants.

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