They are studying political science. They wax poetic about bringing change to society through activism. They are the two latest recipients of the Panetta Institute Congressional Internship.
For the second year in a row, two Cal Poly Pomona students have been selected as Panetta interns. Josh Ebiner and Naomi Alexander will be part of the staffs of two members of the California contingent to the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.
A committee composed of faculty members reviewed the initial pool of candidates before the finalists were whittled down. University President Soraya M. Coley conducted the final interviews and selected the nominees who have been confirmed by the Panetta Institute.
“The process for becoming a Panetta intern is quite rigorous,” said Sara Garver, interim associate dean at the College of Letters, Arts & Social Sciences. “We know that Josh and Naomi will do a wonderful job in Washington and we look forward to having them return to campus next winter and share their experiences with other Cal Poly Pomona students.”
Before heading to the nation’s capital, Ebiner and Alexander will spend two weeks at Cal State Monterey Bay for training in early August. The 11-week internship, which is housed in the College of Letters, Arts & Social Sciences, will end in mid-November.
Ebiner is a third-year student on track to graduate in June 2017. The Pomona native still has designs on being a lawyer, but some classes are “pulling me in another direction.”
One path is going to graduate school then pursuing a doctorate in political science so he can teach at a university. Another direction a few years down the road is politics.
“I would like to run for elected office, starting with the West Covina City Council and working my way up from there,” Ebiner says. “This internship will not only provide practical experience but knowledge about how politics works, how government works from an inside perspective. It will be something I can take with me if I choose to pursue an elected office.”
San Gabriel Valley cities have a history of electing young politicians. Voters in neighboring Walnut elected a 23-year-old councilman in April.
In addition to his classes, Ebiner is an intern at the Pomona Superior Court’s Self-Help Legal Access Center. He also worked with the Prison Education Project under political science Professor Renford Reese during the fall quarter.
Ebiner became aware of the Panetta internship during summer orientation before his freshman year.
“I thought to myself, ‘That’s the one I want to pursue. That’s the one I want to get,’ ” Ebiner says. “It started with little steps with the classes I was taking and applying myself in the classroom. Then getting involved in the campus through Associated Students Inc., through various internships. I’ve been working up to it for a while.”
Alexander is a second-year student from Sacramento. She was part of a mock trial team in high school, and that sparked her desire to be a lawyer.
She expects to graduate in spring 2018 and her path in law is seemingly laid out. Alexander sees three years of law school after graduation and then a less conventional side of the profession.
“The reason I want to be a public defender is because I feel the judicial system is confusing to navigate for the average citizen. Most people if they do get into legal trouble, they have no idea what to do,” Alexander says. “They know they have constitutional rights but they don’t know how those rights work in the system. They can hire an attorney but some people can’t afford to hire a really good attorney.
“Public defenders are necessary to uphold the Constitution. Everyone has the right to counsel. Even if you can’t afford one of the best attorneys, you should still be able to have effective counsel. I want to be one of those people who can help them out,” she said.
Alexander is an intern at the law offices of Sabado & Associates, which specializes in criminal law. Sabado is an adjunct professor in political science at Cal Poly Pomona and had Alexander in his class. Being an intern has hammered home one point for Alexander.
“I want to advocate for other people,” she said. “If I’m able to help one person, that’s enough for me.”
While Alexander relishes being at the epicenter of the nation’s political scene, she also wants to glean insights about how government works. There is also the opportunity to network with other interns and Washington insiders.
“I’m hoping the experience prepares me for the future and changes me for the better,” she said.