Just a few months after his graduation from California State University, Northridge, Elias Garcia ’14 (Political Science) found himself walking through San Quentin State Prison. He listened to the inmates’ stories and learned what it was like to sit on death row. When he entered the execution chamber, he felt dazed.
Fortunately, he was only visiting San Quentin as part of the Sacramento State Jesse Marvin Unruh Assembly Fellowship Program (AFP). Garcia is one of 18 students working in the State Assembly in Sacramento.
“I wanted to work on issues and develop policy solutions that would have a wide impact on all of California,” said Garcia, who hadn’t had much prior experience in policy making.
The political science graduate with a law and society concentration worked in a law office, in courts and even interned for a judge, but in terms of policy, he only had taken a few classes at CSUN.
Garcia now receives firsthand experience in policy development, working for assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank. Since October 2015, he has been calling the capitol building his workplace. The 11-month program includes weekly seminars, briefings with different Assembly members and field trips.
“Each day is different,” Garcia said. “You have to be prepared for the unexpected.”
Between staffing and researching legislation, Garcia’s days are packed with committee hearings and meetings with lobbyists — responsibilities that can be stressful at times, he admitted. But Garcia said his time at CSUN prepared him well for the high-energy environment of the program.
“The classes and activities I participated in at CSUN gave me the analytical tools and knowledge to be successful here and in previous endeavors,” he said. “Professors like [Leigh] Bradberry always encouraged me to challenge myself to go further in my pursuits.”
“Elias always stood out,” said Bradberry, a CSUN political science professor. “He was an exceptional student, thought very carefully and deeply about issues, and was concerned about how law and politics affect the lives of ordinary people.”
In addition to the education he received at CSUN, his experiences in the Assembly Fellowship Program will be great assets for his future, Garcia said. After finishing the program, he plans to pursue a master’s degree related to public policy and apply for a position as a legislative aide to slowly move up the ranks.
“If he runs for office one day, he would represent the people of California well, because he desires to improve the lives of the people in his community and state,” Bradberry said. “We need more thoughtful and engaged young people like Elias to get involved in politics and learn about the legislative process because, ultimately, his generation will determine California’s future.”
The Assembly Fellowship Program is one way to demonstrate engagement in politics and is designed for students who are interested in state government and public service. All applicants must be at least 20 years of age and have completed a four-year degree from a college or university.
For more information on the 2016-17 fellowship, visitwww.csus.edu/calst/programs. The upcoming deadline is Feb. 8.