Marisol Ibarra first honed her political chops taking on leadership roles in high school and rubbing elbows with city leaders as a volunteer at community events in her native South Gate.
Now, the graduating political science senior is helping a state lawmaker craft legislation and respond to the needs of constituents as part of the Sacramento Semester Program.
In January, she relocated to the Capitol for the spring semester to intern for state Sen. Melissa Hurtado, D-Sanger.
“It’s a good opportunity for growth and to build my resume and get experience before I go back to school,” Ibarra said, adding that she plans to pursue a master’s degree in public administration or a law degree in the future.
Ibarra won’t be done with her work for Hurtado at the end of the semester. The 22-year-old has accepted a full-time position as a legislative assistant for the senator. She will fly down to Pomona to walk at commencement May 18 and then return to Sacramento for her job.
The Sacramento Semester Program launched in 1976 at Sacramento State. Students at any of the 23 CSU campuses can apply for the four-a-half-month internship program. Participants intern with member of the state Legislature, departments in the executive branch or with political associations and lobbyists. Besides Sacramento State, additional support for the program comes from the Honorable James Brulte Scholarship.
Ibarra loves the work she is doing.
“It really is how a bill becomes a law…,” she said. “It’s exciting to see I can do all of this. It has been a lot of hands on. It’s learn by doing.”
One of the bills she is helping to craft would fund family resource centers, which provide underserved communities with mental health, employment and other services. A second bill in the works would require all counties in the state to implement a suicide prevention program focused on teens. Both bills are going through the legislative committee process.
Ibarra’s duties include conducting research, preparing fact sheets to illustrate why the legislation is needed and finding co-sponsors for the bills. She values her role in crafting laws that can change lives, she said.
Ibarra has always been the type to get involved. As a student at what was then the newly built Legacy High School, Ibarra served on a board tasked with coming up with the school’s name. She was the ASB president and valedictorian. She also volunteered in her community.
At Cal Poly Pomona, Ibarra volunteered with Political Science Professor Renford Reese’s Prison Education Project and did international field work in Canada as part of a nonprofit course Reese teaches.
The first-generation college student said she is proud of defying the odds to earn her degree.
Political Science Professor Brady Collins, who serves as Cal Poly Pomona’s liaison for the Sacramento Semester program, worked with Ibarra on her application. Collins, who taught her in his urban politics class, describes Ibarra as hardworking, easy to work with, persuasive and inspiring.
“She has a good grasp of the political process. For someone as young as she is, she really gets it,” Collins said. “When she arrived in Sacramento, she was already ahead of the game. She also knows how to connect all of this really dense legislative language to the lived experience of communities. She understands because she has seen it.”
Political Science Professor Mario Guerrero also taught Ibarra in a couple of classes and served as an advisor for her senior thesis on the role of local government in immigration.
He recalls seeing her arrive 30 minutes early for an 8 a.m. class so she could review her notes.
“That kind of diligence strikes you because it is exceptional for students to be that detail oriented in class,” he said.
Programs like Sacramento Semester give students a valuable opportunity to apply what they learn in the classroom to the real world, Guerrero said.
“Preparing students for programs like this is really exemplary of what Cal Poly Pomona does,” he said. “I am really proud of her.”