Jacob Wolak, a political science senior, is jumpstarting his career by working for Congressman Gil Cisneros.
Wolak, a field representative and staff assistant for the congressman, was first introduced to Cisneros’ office when he provided input on legislation that would help student veterans or military dependents use their GI Bill to receive stipends during school breaks less than eight weeks. The bill is waiting to be voted on in the Subcommittee for Economic Opportunity, which is part of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and oversees specific legislation for veterans that includes education, employment and training, and housing programs.
“Student veterans are a little bit of a different population,” said Wolak, who served four years in the Marine Corps. “We’re older, we usually have families and we usually have a home and mortgage to pay for, so it creates a bigger financial burden when we’re not getting that monthly stipend.”
The GI Bill helps cover the cost of education or additional professional training to service members and eligible veterans. Cal Poly Pomona’s Veteran’s Resource Center (VRC) supports military dependents with how to use their GI Bill and understand their veteran benefits, and provides additional services including exclusive company tours, workshops in resume and career building and in-house counseling.
Wolak first connected with the VRC to help with his enrollment when he transferred to Cal Poly Pomona in 2018 from Mt. San Antonio College. Samuel Kim, the Veteran Affairs Certifying Official, and Elke Azpeitia, VRC Coordinator, guided him on how to navigate the campus and access resources that would support him as a student. Wolak was eventually a College of Letters, Arts and Social Science representative for the VRC to help his peers connect with the center’s resources.
“I went to the VRC, and they got the ball rolling since day one,” Wolak said. “They were very welcoming, and helped students think about what they’re going to do when they graduate and how to plan for their career.”
Wolak credits his parents for his interest in history and politics – they would have the news on the television and radio daily when he was growing up. The first political event that made an impression on him was the Supreme Court ruling in the presidential election between former Vice President Al Gore and former President George W. Bush.
He gained hands-on experiences in politics and formed networks through his Cal Poly Pomona experiences. Wolak was a legislative correspondent for student representatives and analyzed and discussed legislation with campus government affairs committees, which led him to have more meetings with Cisneros’ office and other government officials.
“I like history and political science. You look back on how certain bills, ideas or topics have changed the course of things and the way politics have gone left or right,” Wolak said. “At Cal Poly Pomona, I met several other congress members, assembly members and state senators – it kept going from there. I kept building those public relations skills.”
Wolak wears his Marine Corps lapel pin when he works at Cisneros’ office, and continues to carry with him the values he learned through his service: discipline, being punctual, and especially now, working hard. Wolak works remotely during shelter-in-place orders to answer constituent questions and refer community members to resources.
“Nothing is going to be handed to you – you have to go out and earn it yourself,” Wolack said. “But as veterans, we try to look out for each other. When we see a veteran applying for a job, you want to make sure they’re taken care of.”