On Jan. 30, Sommarani (Mayra) Chan, a master’s student in agriculture, visited Washington, D.C., for the first time. She ended her trip sitting in the gallery of the U.S. Congress listening to President Donald Trump give his first State the Union address. She watched history being made and observed the reactions of the federal government.
Chan is the daughter of Cambodian immigrants who fled the Khmer Rouge and a veteran of the U.S. Army Reserve who did one tour in Afghanistan and a humanitarian mission in Panama. She attended the speech at the invitation of Congresswoman Norma J. Torres (D-CA District 35) who is a strong supporter of Cal Poly Pomona and its Veteran’s Resource Center.
Chan’s packed one-day visit to the seat of government included a tour of the Capitol and meetings with Congresswoman Torres; Congressman Adam Smith (D-Washington District 9), ranking member of the House Armed Services Commission; and Congressman Mark Takano (D-CA District 41), vice ranking member of the House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs. During those meetings, she discussed her experiences as a student veteran at Cal Poly Pomona and how the campus Veterans Resource Center has supported her academic and personal success. She also shared her research interest on combating obesity amongst the veteran community.
Another highlight was attending a pre-event reception hosted by Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA District 12) for representatives and their guests.
“It was really amazing to be under the same roof as all of these influential and inspiring women, powerful women who are at the forefront of their political careers — Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Feinstein, Congresswoman Torres and Minority Leader Pelosi.
“I do feel like I was part of history,” Chan said. “You cannot go through an experience like this D.C. trip and not become involved in what’s going on with the issues. It was a huge learning experience. It was life-changing for me. I never really talked about politics too much, but now I feel that I have to be involved with my civic responsibilities as an American and as a veteran. I have to be engaged.
Chan earned her bachelor’s degree in food and nutrition in 2017 and is currently working on her master’s in agriculture with an emphasis on nutrition and food science. Her thesis research focuses on combating obesity amongst the veteran community.
“It was an honor to have veteran and Cal Poly Pomona graduate student Mayra Chan as my guest to the State of the Union. Mayra’s incredible story and commitment serves as a shining example of the value and strength that immigrants, refugees, and their children bring to our nation,” said Rep. Torres.