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Subway Dreams: Disability, Inclusion, and Identity in New York

Mon, 09/28/2015 - 8:06am

Posted by John Gardner Fellow Paras Shah

Gazing intently at the sign does not yield clarity. The illuminated white letters remain tantalizingly obscure against their black background. This would not typically frustrate me. After all, since I am legally blind, I encounter the situation, and others like it, daily. At restaurants, movie theaters, and street corners, posted signs present obstacles to circumvent. Tonight, however, I am in a hurry and eager to escape a late summer rain shower. Eventually, I pull out my phone and snap a picture of the sign, “14th Street Uptown and Queens” it reads. Perfect, exactly where I want to get on the subway.

I consider my options while descending the grimy staircase. Faint smells—urine and cigarette smoke mixed with perspiration—swirl up from three levels of subterranean train platforms, an end-of-the-workday greeting. Decisively, I remove my white cane from the gym bag slung across my shoulder, carefully assemble it, and walk along with this symbol of difference, of otherness, moving from side to side in front of me. The transformation manifests instantly. People move out of my way, three commuters pause in their evening journeys to offer assistance, and two elderly women, their efforts full of good intentions, link arms and guide me toward the wrong train.

View from the 102nd Floor of the Empire State Building in New York

Me at the Empire State Building in New York

I move between identities. Twenty-something young professional, a negligible fixture of the ordinary scene, is supplanted by young disabled man, likely lost and certainly confused by his complicated, unfamiliar surroundings. Accompanying the role change come acute attitudinal shifts: curiosity, uncertainty, and admiration co-mingle with uninvited pity.

Standing in the packed subway car I recall the reasons I came to New York and dream of an alternate subway trip I hope to make reality.

The World Health Organization estimates that one billion people, one in seven of the world’s population, have some form of physical, sensory, or psychosocial disability. Taken as a class, people with disabilities have reduced access to healthcare, education, transportation, jobs, and overall quality of life. Moreover, around the world, people with disabilities face forced institutionalization, isolation from their communities, and often-insurmountable barriers to meaningful participation in decisions about their lives, marriages, financial choices, and legal representation. Disability is still understood and treated in medical terms: the individual is perceived by a lack of ability as compared to the “normal” population.

The Americans with Disabilities Act seeks to address many of these challenges, although obstacles remain despite progress. One of the ADA’s major contributions has been to affirm people with disabilities as just that, people who face disabling barriers—lack of wheelchair ramps, unavailability of braille, absence of sign language interpreters, dearth of voluntary mental health services—to full participation in society.

Entrance to Human Rights Watch’s office in New York

During my John Gardner Fellowship in the Disability Rights Division at Human Rights Watch, I want to deconstruct the stigma around disability. To create an environment in which I should have been able to put away the cane in the subway, not take it out. Human Rights Watch, together with the disabled persons organizations they partner with, promotes the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the core international human rights treaty and legal instrument focusing exclusively on individuals with disabilities.

My portfolio focuses on inclusive humanitarian aid in the context of conflict and natural disaster. During the crisis in the Central African Republic, for example, Human Rights Watch documented how people with disabilities were abandoned, neglected, and unable to obtain basic services such as food, shelter, and sanitation. Humanitarian organizations and UN agencies failed to account for the needs of people with disabilities, including in planning and emergency response processes. But in April, the UN Security Council for the first time called on the peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic to monitor and report on abuses against people with disabilities. We hope to shed light on other similar crises in which people with disabilities have been forgotten—and push for more action, visibility, and attention.

Moving forward, I will continue to navigate my fellowship thoughtfully and with openness so we can work with governments, and partner with other organizations and advocates for people with disabilities to remove barriers and promote equity.

Please join me in these efforts. When you see someone with a disability, treat them just like anyone else and raise your voice against barriers to inclusion and access.

Paras Shah is a recent graduate of UC Berkeley. While at Cal he studied History and Political Science. He is currently a John Gardner Fellow, working at Human Rights Watch in New York City.


Subway Dreams: Disability, Inclusion, and Identity in New York

Mon, 09/28/2015 - 8:06am

Posted by John Gardner Fellow Paras Shah

Gazing intently at the sign does not yield clarity. The illuminated white letters remain tantalizingly obscure against their black background. This would not typically frustrate me. After all, since I am legally blind, I encounter the situation, and others like it, daily. At restaurants, movie theaters, and street corners, posted signs present obstacles to circumvent. Tonight, however, I am in a hurry and eager to escape a late summer rain shower. Eventually, I pull out my phone and snap a picture of the sign, “14th Street Uptown and Queens” it reads. Perfect, exactly where I want to get on the subway.

I consider my options while descending the grimy staircase. Faint smells—urine and cigarette smoke mixed with perspiration—swirl up from three levels of subterranean train platforms, an end-of-the-workday greeting. Decisively, I remove my white cane from the gym bag slung across my shoulder, carefully assemble it, and walk along with this symbol of difference, of otherness, moving from side to side in front of me. The transformation manifests instantly. People move out of my way, three commuters pause in their evening journeys to offer assistance, and two elderly women, their efforts full of good intentions, link arms and guide me toward the wrong train.

View from the 102nd Floor of the Empire State Building in New York

Me at the Empire State Building in New York

I move between identities. Twenty-something young professional, a negligible fixture of the ordinary scene, is supplanted by young disabled man, likely lost and certainly confused by his complicated, unfamiliar surroundings. Accompanying the role change come acute attitudinal shifts: curiosity, uncertainty, and admiration co-mingle with uninvited pity.

Standing in the packed subway car I recall the reasons I came to New York and dream of an alternate subway trip I hope to make reality.

The World Health Organization estimates that one billion people, one in seven of the world’s population, have some form of physical, sensory, or psychosocial disability. Taken as a class, people with disabilities have reduced access to healthcare, education, transportation, jobs, and overall quality of life. Moreover, around the world, people with disabilities face forced institutionalization, isolation from their communities, and often-insurmountable barriers to meaningful participation in decisions about their lives, marriages, financial choices, and legal representation. Disability is still understood and treated in medical terms: the individual is perceived by a lack of ability as compared to the “normal” population.

The Americans with Disabilities Act seeks to address many of these challenges, although obstacles remain despite progress. One of the ADA’s major contributions has been to affirm people with disabilities as just that, people who face disabling barriers—lack of wheelchair ramps, unavailability of braille, absence of sign language interpreters, dearth of voluntary mental health services—to full participation in society.

Entrance to Human Rights Watch’s office in New York

During my John Gardner Fellowship in the Disability Rights Division at Human Rights Watch, I want to deconstruct the stigma around disability. To create an environment in which I should have been able to put away the cane in the subway, not take it out. Human Rights Watch, together with the disabled persons organizations they partner with, promotes the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the core international human rights treaty and legal instrument focusing exclusively on individuals with disabilities.

My portfolio focuses on inclusive humanitarian aid in the context of conflict and natural disaster. During the crisis in the Central African Republic, for example, Human Rights Watch documented how people with disabilities were abandoned, neglected, and unable to obtain basic services such as food, shelter, and sanitation. Humanitarian organizations and UN agencies failed to account for the needs of people with disabilities, including in planning and emergency response processes. But in April, the UN Security Council for the first time called on the peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic to monitor and report on abuses against people with disabilities. We hope to shed light on other similar crises in which people with disabilities have been forgotten—and push for more action, visibility, and attention.

Moving forward, I will continue to navigate my fellowship thoughtfully and with openness so we can work with governments, and partner with other organizations and advocates for people with disabilities to remove barriers and promote equity.

Please join me in these efforts. When you see someone with a disability, treat them just like anyone else and raise your voice against barriers to inclusion and access.

Paras Shah is a recent graduate of UC Berkeley. While at Cal he studied History and Political Science. He is currently a John Gardner Fellow, working at Human Rights Watch in New York City.


Great internship opportunity with CA PAC

Fri, 09/25/2015 - 1:37pm

The California Association of Realtors is seeking part-time interns to work with Laiza Garcia, the Director of the Association’s Political Action Committee. This internship will give students the opportunity to gain valuable practical experience at the intersection of money and politics. The principal work will involve online research and other work supporting the work of the Association’s PAC. This will expose the chosen candidate to an insider’s perspective of campaigns and elections in California.

Requirements are that the student be able to work 5-10 hours a week at the internship, and make occasional trips to Sacramento to meet with Ms. Garcia. Most of the work can be done from the Bay Area. There is a potential to receive credit for independent study for this internship, depending on the details.

Applicants should have an interest in politics and/or public policy, but the internship is open to students of any major. Interested students should email Ethan Rarick, at erarick@berkeley.edu, with a resume and one-page writing sample.

The California Real Estate Political Action Committee (CREPAC) is a committee of volunteer REALTORS® from California that exists to make contributions and conduct independent expenditures on behalf of or in opposition to California candidates for election to local and state offices. CREPAC also encourages REALTORS® to take a more active role in political and governmental affairs. CREPAC is a small contributor committee with over 180,000 REALTOR® supporters and is one of the top political action committees in California.

About the California Association of REALTORS®

The purpose of the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® is to serve its membership in developing and promoting programs and services that will enhance the members’ freedom and ability to conduct their individual businesses successfully with integrity and competency, and through collective action, to promote the preservation of real property rights.

Today, the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® includes more than 110 local member Associations and more than 180,000 REALTORS®, REALTOR®-Associates and affiliate members who abide by a rigid code of professional ethics.

For more information about C.A.R. please visit our website at www.car.org


Great internship opportunity with CA PAC

Fri, 09/25/2015 - 1:37pm

The California Association of Realtors is seeking part-time interns to work with Laiza Garcia, the Director of the Association’s Political Action Committee. This internship will give students the opportunity to gain valuable practical experience at the intersection of money and politics. The principal work will involve online research and other work supporting the work of the Association’s PAC. This will expose the chosen candidate to an insider’s perspective of campaigns and elections in California.

Requirements are that the student be able to work 5-10 hours a week at the internship, and make occasional trips to Sacramento to meet with Ms. Garcia. Most of the work can be done from the Bay Area. There is a potential to receive credit for independent study for this internship, depending on the details.

Applicants should have an interest in politics and/or public policy, but the internship is open to students of any major. Interested students should email Ethan Rarick, at erarick@berkeley.edu, with a resume and one-page writing sample.

The California Real Estate Political Action Committee (CREPAC) is a committee of volunteer REALTORS® from California that exists to make contributions and conduct independent expenditures on behalf of or in opposition to California candidates for election to local and state offices. CREPAC also encourages REALTORS® to take a more active role in political and governmental affairs. CREPAC is a small contributor committee with over 180,000 REALTOR® supporters and is one of the top political action committees in California.

About the California Association of REALTORS®

The purpose of the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® is to serve its membership in developing and promoting programs and services that will enhance the members’ freedom and ability to conduct their individual businesses successfully with integrity and competency, and through collective action, to promote the preservation of real property rights.

Today, the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® includes more than 110 local member Associations and more than 180,000 REALTORS®, REALTOR®-Associates and affiliate members who abide by a rigid code of professional ethics.

For more information about C.A.R. please visit our website at www.car.org


Life in the Fast Lane

Tue, 09/22/2015 - 9:25am

 

Posted by Matsui Washington Fellow Lucy Song

To be honest, when I first landed at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, I really did not have a clear idea of or much expectation about how my semester in D.C. would unfold–after all, I have never been to America’s national capital or seen much of the East Coast at all. But fast forward a month, I think my life in D.C. has unraveled in the luckiest way possible so far–I am absolutely loving my internship at the Wilson Center and got the chance to explore many facets of D.C. through going on food adventures, attending incredible seminars and talks, and exploring museums/being an overzealous tourist in general.

As someone who is thinking about going to graduate school, I wanted to learn more about scholarly research by interning at an academic think tank. And my internship at the Wilson Center is really facilitating my interest so far. I spend my internship days reading cool primary sources such as Chinese newspaper clippings from the 1970s, discussing and exchanging ideas with scholars, and summarizing reading materials. It also feels great to be surrounded by other friendly interns at the Center who have similar interests. Being in a think tank, I’ve had the chance to attend many seminars and talks on topics ranging from law reform to the Iran Deal to U.S.-Spanish counterteorrism cooperation (featuring the King of Spain!).

Taking the Metro after work

 

Aside from being such a nerd, I have also tried a lot of cool food in D.C., ranging from curry ramen to Georgetown cupcakes to must-eat D.C. burgers to $5 Happy Hour fried calamari.

Curry chicken ramen at Toki Underground, one of the hippiest restaurants I’ve been to

 

Proper Burger at Duke’s

 

D.C. also has events for people of different interests, so I never feel bored in this new city. Rather, I feel that there is never enough time for everything. It took my roommate and me an entire day to walk through the American History Museum. Slam poetry and open-mic nights have been great ways to unwind after a busy week.

Slam poetry night at Bus Boys and Poets. 10/10!

 

Mandatory Washington Monument Picture

Looking back, I cannot believe that I’ve been here for a month. Between explorations, fun, internships, classes and research, time sure passes by quickly around here. But here are some lessons I have learned in D.C. so far:
1) Keep yourself up to date with current affairs and news; even if you do not work directly in politics, it is still good to keep yourself informed for many reasons. After all, many conversations will revolve around politics here, and you don’t want to feel out of the loop.
2) Try not to spend your free time lounging around and watching Netflix but instead be active and look for events, festivals, and performances to attend. Sure, it is great to unwind and relax once in a while, but make sure you get a good glimpse of D.C. and all it has to offer before you leave. Also, many of these events will have free food, which is an extra incentive.
3) Be open to meeting new people. It doesn’t hurt to make friends in a new city. And if you are into networking, be sure to bring business cards with you. You will never know who you might meet! So don’t be shy to introduce yourself and make small talk with the people you meet.

Anyway, that is all from me for now. The Pope and Chinese President Xi Jinping will be in town next week. New adventures await!

Til next time,
Lucy

Lucy Song is a junior at UC Berkeley, studying history and public policy. She is currently interning at the Wilson Center as a Matsui Washington Fellow.


Life in the Fast Lane

Tue, 09/22/2015 - 9:25am

 

Posted by Matsui Washington Fellow Lucy Song

To be honest, when I first landed at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, I really did not have a clear idea of or much expectation about how my semester in D.C. would unfold–after all, I have never been to America’s national capital or seen much of the East Coast at all. But fast forward a month, I think my life in D.C. has unraveled in the luckiest way possible so far–I am absolutely loving my internship at the Wilson Center and got the chance to explore many facets of D.C. through going on food adventures, attending incredible seminars and talks, and exploring museums/being an overzealous tourist in general.

As someone who is thinking about going to graduate school, I wanted to learn more about scholarly research by interning at an academic think tank. And my internship at the Wilson Center is really facilitating my interest so far. I spend my internship days reading cool primary sources such as Chinese newspaper clippings from the 1970s, discussing and exchanging ideas with scholars, and summarizing reading materials. It also feels great to be surrounded by other friendly interns at the Center who have similar interests. Being in a think tank, I’ve had the chance to attend many seminars and talks on topics ranging from law reform to the Iran Deal to U.S.-Spanish counterteorrism cooperation (featuring the King of Spain!).

Taking the Metro after work

 

Aside from being such a nerd, I have also tried a lot of cool food in D.C., ranging from curry ramen to Georgetown cupcakes to must-eat D.C. burgers to $5 Happy Hour fried calamari.

Curry chicken ramen at Toki Underground, one of the hippiest restaurants I’ve been to

 

Proper Burger at Duke’s

 

D.C. also has events for people of different interests, so I never feel bored in this new city. Rather, I feel that there is never enough time for everything. It took my roommate and me an entire day to walk through the American History Museum. Slam poetry and open-mic nights have been great ways to unwind after a busy week.

Slam poetry night at Bus Boys and Poets. 10/10!

 

Mandatory Washington Monument Picture

Looking back, I cannot believe that I’ve been here for a month. Between explorations, fun, internships, classes and research, time sure passes by quickly around here. But here are some lessons I have learned in D.C. so far:
1) Keep yourself up to date with current affairs and news; even if you do not work directly in politics, it is still good to keep yourself informed for many reasons. After all, many conversations will revolve around politics here, and you don’t want to feel out of the loop.
2) Try not to spend your free time lounging around and watching Netflix but instead be active and look for events, festivals, and performances to attend. Sure, it is great to unwind and relax once in a while, but make sure you get a good glimpse of D.C. and all it has to offer before you leave. Also, many of these events will have free food, which is an extra incentive.
3) Be open to meeting new people. It doesn’t hurt to make friends in a new city. And if you are into networking, be sure to bring business cards with you. You will never know who you might meet! So don’t be shy to introduce yourself and make small talk with the people you meet.

Anyway, that is all from me for now. The Pope and Chinese President Xi Jinping will be in town next week. New adventures await!

Til next time,
Lucy

Lucy Song is a junior at UC Berkeley, studying history and public policy. She is currently interning at the Wilson Center as a Matsui Washington Fellow.


Navigating the Capital: Tales of Ozi in DC

Wed, 09/09/2015 - 11:32am

Posted by Matsui Washington Fellow Ozi Emeziem

Part One- Arriving in a New Place & Discovery of a New Space!

The days leading up to my departure seem so surreal… Between classes, final projects, and preparations for my trip, I haven’t had the time to sit and think about the fact that I will be relocating in a few days. I am a Libra and change has never been comforting. I enjoy the way things are, how I know things to be, I live in the past, and the idea of evolution, transformation, renewal…it does not necessarily enthuse me. Rather, it scares me. It is the unknown, nothing that I can ever efficiently be prepared for because I have no clue as to what I am truly preparing for. As a Libra, one of the major concepts that I must overcome is my fear of change; I must learn to embrace it instead of run away from it and as my senior year arises, there are a lot of changes in store for me.

My small reminder of home and travel buddy!

My last day in the Bay Area consists of hugs, kisses, good wishes, and a safe journey. It still does not occur to me that for the first time in my life I am about to set out on my own. In fact, my family has been within reach my whole life and not even college afforded me the opportunity to leave the nest as they live only 30 minutes away. I have always had them by my side, just as I have had the same friends from middle school who I hang out with on the weekends, just like I have attended school with my twin since our pre-kindergarten years, like how I call my father to pick me up on his way home from work whenever I need a dose of home and the hugs of my mom. I have never really been on my own. While I rely on myself at school, my support system has always been strong and I have never had to really push myself out of my comfort zone because I could always rely on someone to be there. If I can recall a moment, my twin and I were talking about our plans after college and I said that I wanted to move to New York. As much as he loves and supports me, he said, “you’ll never make it out there” and justified his reasoning by referring to our first year in college when I would go home every weekend because I missed my family so much… I always think about it, even to this day, will I be my own setback?

I guess not this time…this time I am leaving him, I am leaving them, and embarking on my own trip. Yet, these good-byes on my last night do not really feel…real. Am I really leaving? Am I actually pushing myself to experience more than what Berkeley could ever give me? If anything, images of what I am going to miss this semester flood my mind: my family, the incoming class of first years who lived on the Afro floor, facilitating FemSex, the yardshow, football games, and worst of all, the 21st birthday that my twin and I should be celebrating together, but I am going to D.C.… such an abstract, unknown place that I had a chance to visit in eighth grade and missed. Now here is another chance while I am older to not only explore the nation’s capital, but the East Coast! So, I say my good-byes to friends and head home to finish packing four months worth of life. I do not sleep a wink the night before and rightly so as my flight leaves without me by 8:30 am. Luckily enough, there is an extra seat on the red eye flight so the second time that my mom drops me off, after a series of hugs and an onslaught of her tears, by midnight I have been flying in the air for two hours, enveloped in sleep, bound to wake up in my new home.

Just as my departure felt so surreal, living in Washington, D.C. feels just as surreal. I can’t believe that I am actually here, it is almost as if I will just blink and suddenly I am back in California as if this was nothing but a dream. Even if it is a dream, my excitement wouldn’t change- this is a chance to broaden my horizons, see places beyond the TV or in textbooks, and also to learn and develop myself…and my first two weeks have been nothing less than enriching. I spend days exploring the city, memorizing the street names and hotspots…Rhode Island Avenue, Massachussetts Avenue, New York City Avenue, 17th Street, 14th Street, 12th Street, K Street, T Street, U Street, where there is so much life and activity. I relish in the humid nights, which seem so much more exciting than the daytime, as people roam the streets and the constant sound of cars ushers me to sleep.

Our neighbor! My first night in D.C., I thought I would drop by and say hello!

Our tour guide said that most people miss this part of the Lincoln Memorial…So, if you ever visit, be sure to stop on the second platform, right before the last set of stairs, in the center, and honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the precise spot that he gave his speech. (A tip: pour water on the words so that you can see it clearly unless it blends right in and you’ll end up walking right over it!)

Now that my internship has started and I am a working 9-5er, I have a chance to meet professionals who are utilizing law in a field that I am so passionate about. So, my nights consist of a little less exploring and more time preparing lunch for the next day as well as homework, but not many people can say that they worked for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which was established by JFK himself. My favorite aspect of D.C. by far is the food! It seems as if on every block, as I pass every building, there is a new place for me to try out. My friend recently took me to a South African, Portuguese flame grilled chicken joint called Nando’s, which is absolutely tasty (if you ever visit, order the Chicken Breast Wrap Extra Hot). I also love how accessible things are around here! Although I am not a fan of the Metro, which I would argue is worse than Bart, I love the fact that there are so many events happening that I can Uber to in under eight minutes. Where else can I catch events such as forums on the Iran Nuclear Deal in the National Press Building and a Caribbean festival next? In fact, my roommates and I are planning to go to Virginia Beach this weekend and New York is next on the list!

Still in shock…

Although the quality sucks, how beautiful is this sight…it gave me chills to be able to actually see this.

As I stated earlier, as a Libra, change can be scary, but this stay in D.C. with all the changes that it may bring, does not seem intimidating. I love the fact that “California” can be read on me very quickly because I love my home state, but D.C. seems to hold promises of an exciting, fast-paced adventure. These series of posts are not meant to just reflect my time in this amazing city, it will not just be filled with tales of my tourism, but also my growth, development, and the nuances of navigating D.C. as a black woman in the professional world as well as in daily encounters. I have yet to feel homesick because I want more…Stay tuned because I assure you it is going to be one interesting journey!

Until next time, Ozi.

Ozi Emeziem is a senior at UC Berkeley, studying comparative literature and ethnic studies. She is currently interning with the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.


Navigating the Capital: Tales of Ozi in DC

Wed, 09/09/2015 - 11:32am

Posted by Matsui Washington Fellow Ozi Emeziem

Part One- Arriving in a New Place & Discovery of a New Space!

The days leading up to my departure seem so surreal… Between classes, final projects, and preparations for my trip, I haven’t had the time to sit and think about the fact that I will be relocating in a few days. I am a Libra and change has never been comforting. I enjoy the way things are, how I know things to be, I live in the past, and the idea of evolution, transformation, renewal…it does not necessarily enthuse me. Rather, it scares me. It is the unknown, nothing that I can ever efficiently be prepared for because I have no clue as to what I am truly preparing for. As a Libra, one of the major concepts that I must overcome is my fear of change; I must learn to embrace it instead of run away from it and as my senior year arises, there are a lot of changes in store for me.

My small reminder of home and travel buddy!

My last day in the Bay Area consists of hugs, kisses, good wishes, and a safe journey. It still does not occur to me that for the first time in my life I am about to set out on my own. In fact, my family has been within reach my whole life and not even college afforded me the opportunity to leave the nest as they live only 30 minutes away. I have always had them by my side, just as I have had the same friends from middle school who I hang out with on the weekends, just like I have attended school with my twin since our pre-kindergarten years, like how I call my father to pick me up on his way home from work whenever I need a dose of home and the hugs of my mom. I have never really been on my own. While I rely on myself at school, my support system has always been strong and I have never had to really push myself out of my comfort zone because I could always rely on someone to be there. If I can recall a moment, my twin and I were talking about our plans after college and I said that I wanted to move to New York. As much as he loves and supports me, he said, “you’ll never make it out there” and justified his reasoning by referring to our first year in college when I would go home every weekend because I missed my family so much… I always think about it, even to this day, will I be my own setback?

I guess not this time…this time I am leaving him, I am leaving them, and embarking on my own trip. Yet, these good-byes on my last night do not really feel…real. Am I really leaving? Am I actually pushing myself to experience more than what Berkeley could ever give me? If anything, images of what I am going to miss this semester flood my mind: my family, the incoming class of first years who lived on the Afro floor, facilitating FemSex, the yardshow, football games, and worst of all, the 21st birthday that my twin and I should be celebrating together, but I am going to D.C.… such an abstract, unknown place that I had a chance to visit in eighth grade and missed. Now here is another chance while I am older to not only explore the nation’s capital, but the East Coast! So, I say my good-byes to friends and head home to finish packing four months worth of life. I do not sleep a wink the night before and rightly so as my flight leaves without me by 8:30 am. Luckily enough, there is an extra seat on the red eye flight so the second time that my mom drops me off, after a series of hugs and an onslaught of her tears, by midnight I have been flying in the air for two hours, enveloped in sleep, bound to wake up in my new home.

Just as my departure felt so surreal, living in Washington, D.C. feels just as surreal. I can’t believe that I am actually here, it is almost as if I will just blink and suddenly I am back in California as if this was nothing but a dream. Even if it is a dream, my excitement wouldn’t change- this is a chance to broaden my horizons, see places beyond the TV or in textbooks, and also to learn and develop myself…and my first two weeks have been nothing less than enriching. I spend days exploring the city, memorizing the street names and hotspots…Rhode Island Avenue, Massachussetts Avenue, New York City Avenue, 17th Street, 14th Street, 12th Street, K Street, T Street, U Street, where there is so much life and activity. I relish in the humid nights, which seem so much more exciting than the daytime, as people roam the streets and the constant sound of cars ushers me to sleep.

Our neighbor! My first night in D.C., I thought I would drop by and say hello!

Our tour guide said that most people miss this part of the Lincoln Memorial…So, if you ever visit, be sure to stop on the second platform, right before the last set of stairs, in the center, and honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the precise spot that he gave his speech. (A tip: pour water on the words so that you can see it clearly unless it blends right in and you’ll end up walking right over it!)

Now that my internship has started and I am a working 9-5er, I have a chance to meet professionals who are utilizing law in a field that I am so passionate about. So, my nights consist of a little less exploring and more time preparing lunch for the next day as well as homework, but not many people can say that they worked for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which was established by JFK himself. My favorite aspect of D.C. by far is the food! It seems as if on every block, as I pass every building, there is a new place for me to try out. My friend recently took me to a South African, Portuguese flame grilled chicken joint called Nando’s, which is absolutely tasty (if you ever visit, order the Chicken Breast Wrap Extra Hot). I also love how accessible things are around here! Although I am not a fan of the Metro, which I would argue is worse than Bart, I love the fact that there are so many events happening that I can Uber to in under eight minutes. Where else can I catch events such as forums on the Iran Nuclear Deal in the National Press Building and a Caribbean festival next? In fact, my roommates and I are planning to go to Virginia Beach this weekend and New York is next on the list!

Still in shock…

Although the quality sucks, how beautiful is this sight…it gave me chills to be able to actually see this.

As I stated earlier, as a Libra, change can be scary, but this stay in D.C. with all the changes that it may bring, does not seem intimidating. I love the fact that “California” can be read on me very quickly because I love my home state, but D.C. seems to hold promises of an exciting, fast-paced adventure. These series of posts are not meant to just reflect my time in this amazing city, it will not just be filled with tales of my tourism, but also my growth, development, and the nuances of navigating D.C. as a black woman in the professional world as well as in daily encounters. I have yet to feel homesick because I want more…Stay tuned because I assure you it is going to be one interesting journey!

Until next time, Ozi.

Ozi Emeziem is a senior at UC Berkeley, studying comparative literature and ethnic studies. She is currently interning with the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.


Prescription Fire: A Hot Topic on the ARP

Thu, 07/30/2015 - 11:35am

Posted by Matsui Local Government Fellow
Korbi Thalhammer

While mapping social trails on the American River Parkway in Sacramento, I am often approached by curious walkers, cyclists, and other Parkway users. They’re interested in what I’m doing with my GPS and maps, and when they learn that I’m interning for the County of Sacramento, the main governing agency on the Parkway, they often have some suggestions for how the river corridor could be better cared for.

Simple solutions have also occurred to me as I’ve learned more about the problems facing the Parkway. But the more I ask about why these steps have not been taken, the more I encounter layers of complexity that exist below the surface of Parkway management issues.

A firefighter stands at the ready during a June training burn on the Parkway.


For example, a common question I receive on the Parkway is, “Why doesn’t the county use prescription burns more often?” In prescription burning, an experienced fire crew ignites and manages a controlled burn in a predesignated area. These controlled, low intensity burns can also be used to safely eliminate flashy fuels, like grass, which can fuel more damaging fires if ignited under unsupervised conditions. A multi-year program of prescription fire is a viable option for eliminating the seedbank of certain nonnative plants. One such plant is yellow starthistle, which is widespread on the Parkway. County Parks understands these facts and yet uses prescription fire only sparingly. Why?
One reason involves the local air quality restrictions. Regulations surrounding small particulate emissions have become increasingly stringent as the corresponding negative health effects have become more well understood. Fires produce large amounts of these dangerously small particulates, which can lodge in the lungs and cause or exacerbate respiratory problems. On days when air quality is already poor, a prescribed burn can push the particulate level over the regulatory limit. Under these conditions, burns are called off, negating months of prior planning. When burns are cancelled at the last minute, it can be very difficult to reschedule them because of the number of variables that must be considered.

After the flames die, crewmembers monitor the burned over areas to prevent smoldering embers from igniting fires beyond the confines of the training burn.

Ecologically, it is a challenge to find a time of year when animals and plants will benefit rather than suffer from burning. In winter and early spring fuels are typically too green and wet to burn effectively. Late spring is often a time when fuels are dry enough to burn and when weather and air quality are most amenable to prescribed burning. But spring is also nesting season for many ground nesting birds including red winged blackbirds and ducks. These birds often nest in the same fields of grass and star thistle that are being considered for burning, thus precluding these areas from the burn prescription. Summer and fall in Sacramento are typically so hot and dry that even carefully controlled burns with large attendant crews are at high risk of escape, overburn, habitat damage and other issues. Fire crews are also busy fighting wildfires all over the state, and are typically unavailable for planned summer burns. In addition to these problems, summer often brings notoriously bad air quality, again preventing burns.

A fire crew keeps an eye on the training burn as it moves through a field of starthistle.

Another slew of factors also affect the County’s ability to pursue prescribed burning as a management tactic. One such factor is the mixed public opinion surrounding burning. Some people disagree that the benefits of prescribed burning outweigh the risks. Others oppose the use of fire because it can escape the control of even watchful prescribed fire crews. The Parkway runs directly adjacent to residential neighborhoods, and an escaped fire has the potential to endanger people living beyond park borders. Even fires that remain under control produce smoke that can bother, concern and alarm neighbors.

The paved Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail, a major artery for foot and bicycle traffic in the Parkway, remained open during the burn.

The sheer number of considerations that go into even a single prescribed burn make the task of scheduling a program of larger scale prescribed burning for management goals a daunting prospect. But despite the issues of complexity and jurisdictional conflicts faced by managers, the intensity and size of accidental and arson-ignited fires have been increasing during the past few years of drought.

Firefighters ignited the training burn using drip torches containing flammable fluid like diesel or gasoline.

In an effort to avoid some of the pitfalls and obstacles associated with orchestrating prescribed burning, County Parks has employed numerous other methods of fire prevention and invasive species removal.

To minimize the risk of a wildfire fire escaping the Parkway into adjacent neighborhoods, the County Parks Department maintains park boundaries by removing ladder fuels near private property. Ladder fuels, including low-hanging tree branches, vines and dead wood, can channel fire from the ground into tree canopies. Once the fire reaches the treetops, it presents a much higher risk of igniting rooftops in adjacent neighborhoods. The Department also implemented a new set of ordinances allowing park rangers to enforce rules against hazardous behavior in areas of extreme fire danger. County staff has created wide firebreaks by mowing vegetation along maintenance roads. Access roads used by emergency vehicles were mapped, signed and maintained to ease communication and response during fire events. In addition, the use of grazing goats is increasing in popularity as an effective way to reduce flashy fuels. Goats have already been successfully employed for this purpose at some Regional Park sites. Because the goats digest and kill the seeds of the plants they eat, they may also represent an alternative method for the management of specific invasive plants in certain areas.

A view of the smoke created by the training burn. Training burns are limited to 10 acres, in part to reduce their negative effect on air quality.

The issue of fire prevention on the Parkway will remain pressing as the drought continues. But managers aren’t just taking large, simple steps to achieve their goals. There are layers of legitimate obstacles, regulations, tradeoffs and stakeholder preferences operating behind the scenes. No policy issue operates in a vacuum, and managers understand that.

Korbi Thalhammer is a sophomore at UC Berkeley studying forestry and natural resources. He is interning at the Sacramento County Department of Regional Parks as a Matsui Local Government Fellow.


Prescription Fire: A Hot Topic on the ARP

Thu, 07/30/2015 - 11:35am

Posted by Matsui Local Government Fellow
Korbi Thalhammer

While mapping social trails on the American River Parkway in Sacramento, I am often approached by curious walkers, cyclists, and other Parkway users. They’re interested in what I’m doing with my GPS and maps, and when they learn that I’m interning for the County of Sacramento, the main governing agency on the Parkway, they often have some suggestions for how the river corridor could be better cared for.

Simple solutions have also occurred to me as I’ve learned more about the problems facing the Parkway. But the more I ask about why these steps have not been taken, the more I encounter layers of complexity that exist below the surface of Parkway management issues.

A firefighter stands at the ready during a June training burn on the Parkway.


For example, a common question I receive on the Parkway is, “Why doesn’t the county use prescription burns more often?” In prescription burning, an experienced fire crew ignites and manages a controlled burn in a predesignated area. These controlled, low intensity burns can also be used to safely eliminate flashy fuels, like grass, which can fuel more damaging fires if ignited under unsupervised conditions. A multi-year program of prescription fire is a viable option for eliminating the seedbank of certain nonnative plants. One such plant is yellow starthistle, which is widespread on the Parkway. County Parks understands these facts and yet uses prescription fire only sparingly. Why?
One reason involves the local air quality restrictions. Regulations surrounding small particulate emissions have become increasingly stringent as the corresponding negative health effects have become more well understood. Fires produce large amounts of these dangerously small particulates, which can lodge in the lungs and cause or exacerbate respiratory problems. On days when air quality is already poor, a prescribed burn can push the particulate level over the regulatory limit. Under these conditions, burns are called off, negating months of prior planning. When burns are cancelled at the last minute, it can be very difficult to reschedule them because of the number of variables that must be considered.

After the flames die, crewmembers monitor the burned over areas to prevent smoldering embers from igniting fires beyond the confines of the training burn.

Ecologically, it is a challenge to find a time of year when animals and plants will benefit rather than suffer from burning. In winter and early spring fuels are typically too green and wet to burn effectively. Late spring is often a time when fuels are dry enough to burn and when weather and air quality are most amenable to prescribed burning. But spring is also nesting season for many ground nesting birds including red winged blackbirds and ducks. These birds often nest in the same fields of grass and star thistle that are being considered for burning, thus precluding these areas from the burn prescription. Summer and fall in Sacramento are typically so hot and dry that even carefully controlled burns with large attendant crews are at high risk of escape, overburn, habitat damage and other issues. Fire crews are also busy fighting wildfires all over the state, and are typically unavailable for planned summer burns. In addition to these problems, summer often brings notoriously bad air quality, again preventing burns.

A fire crew keeps an eye on the training burn as it moves through a field of starthistle.

Another slew of factors also affect the County’s ability to pursue prescribed burning as a management tactic. One such factor is the mixed public opinion surrounding burning. Some people disagree that the benefits of prescribed burning outweigh the risks. Others oppose the use of fire because it can escape the control of even watchful prescribed fire crews. The Parkway runs directly adjacent to residential neighborhoods, and an escaped fire has the potential to endanger people living beyond park borders. Even fires that remain under control produce smoke that can bother, concern and alarm neighbors.

The paved Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail, a major artery for foot and bicycle traffic in the Parkway, remained open during the burn.

The sheer number of considerations that go into even a single prescribed burn make the task of scheduling a program of larger scale prescribed burning for management goals a daunting prospect. But despite the issues of complexity and jurisdictional conflicts faced by managers, the intensity and size of accidental and arson-ignited fires have been increasing during the past few years of drought.

Firefighters ignited the training burn using drip torches containing flammable fluid like diesel or gasoline.

In an effort to avoid some of the pitfalls and obstacles associated with orchestrating prescribed burning, County Parks has employed numerous other methods of fire prevention and invasive species removal.

To minimize the risk of a wildfire fire escaping the Parkway into adjacent neighborhoods, the County Parks Department maintains park boundaries by removing ladder fuels near private property. Ladder fuels, including low-hanging tree branches, vines and dead wood, can channel fire from the ground into tree canopies. Once the fire reaches the treetops, it presents a much higher risk of igniting rooftops in adjacent neighborhoods. The Department also implemented a new set of ordinances allowing park rangers to enforce rules against hazardous behavior in areas of extreme fire danger. County staff has created wide firebreaks by mowing vegetation along maintenance roads. Access roads used by emergency vehicles were mapped, signed and maintained to ease communication and response during fire events. In addition, the use of grazing goats is increasing in popularity as an effective way to reduce flashy fuels. Goats have already been successfully employed for this purpose at some Regional Park sites. Because the goats digest and kill the seeds of the plants they eat, they may also represent an alternative method for the management of specific invasive plants in certain areas.

A view of the smoke created by the training burn. Training burns are limited to 10 acres, in part to reduce their negative effect on air quality.

The issue of fire prevention on the Parkway will remain pressing as the drought continues. But managers aren’t just taking large, simple steps to achieve their goals. There are layers of legitimate obstacles, regulations, tradeoffs and stakeholder preferences operating behind the scenes. No policy issue operates in a vacuum, and managers understand that.

Korbi Thalhammer is a sophomore at UC Berkeley studying forestry and natural resources. He is interning at the Sacramento County Department of Regional Parks as a Matsui Local Government Fellow.


A Pilgrimage towards Change

Wed, 07/29/2015 - 4:10pm

Posted by Matsui Local Government Fellow
Zachary Raden

Writing my final blog, I sit staring at my computer screen in reflection. In reflection on not only the surprises I’ve had over this summer, but also the unexpected journey I’ve experienced to be here today. Graduating from the University of California, Berkeley in May, this internship has been almost an extension of Berkeley to me, and for this reason, this final blog feels very much like a farewell to my academic journey and all that it has meant to me.

For this farewell, I want to speak about the crossroads so many graduating students experience. On the one hand, there is the “high school you”—with all your ambitions, interests, and goals—determined to endure the pilgrimage you set out for yourself. Everything you did or hoped for was fixated on this goal, almost to a point of blindness, where you keep waiting to arrive at the end and finally reap the rewards of your labor.

But on the other hand, there is the “new you,” that was changed because of this pilgrimage. The career you set out for yourself in your adolescence is surprisingly no longer the same. The little doctor waiting to bloom perhaps bloomed into something you did not or could not imagine. You find yourself a different person than when you first arrived at college: and maybe that’s not a bad thing.

The past 4 years of my life has been a chaotic whirlwind of change. It seems as if every 3-6 months, some grand event impacts my life that I need to address and reflect on. This internship alone is an excellent example. Part of me worried that they wouldn’t find any work for me and it would be a series of mundane valueless tasks, that any possible worth it would have would be the extra bullet point I could add to my resume at the end. However, it flourished into this brilliant sociological project. I was not only researching existing sociological works, but combining and adding insight within these models. Bouncing ideas around with my boss Brian Beveridge, our conversations and diagrams about social cohesion unexpectedly became a model to fight gentrification within developing cities through social investment. Even more shocking is that the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP) is publishing my work and there is a possibility that the City of Oakland and the foundations working with the city might utilize it in their multi-year plan for Oakland!

Two of my simplified illustrations for my social cohesion presentation

I took the most I could out of this internship opportunity, and in return it gave me the experience of one of my dream jobs in Sociology. I even gave a PowerPoint presentation on my social cohesion report to community leaders and city officials. Seeing your own model and theory outside a classroom setting, addressing an issue as important as gentrification and having an audience studying it, was certainly a powerful moment. But I also learned that sitting on a desk for 8 hours doing research and writing reports can be draining. I enjoy diversity in my work, the mobility to perform various tasks and meet new people with new ideas. Interning at WOEIP, it certainly had a good deal of this diversity, with even a visit from a documentary film crew using their new aerial drone. However, it did open my eyes that maybe my dream job of research and report writing is not exactly what I envisioned.

Documentary film crew using their new aerial drone for a scene.

This is where it comes full circle.

I was fixated on this pilgrimage. Elementary school led to middle school, middle school led to high school, high school led to community college, where finally community college led to transferring to UCB where I obtained my degree. My career goal was also this pilgrimage; although it had occasionally changed over the years, it always manifested into this single job or task that eventually needed to be reached. However, I don’t feel different because of the degree, but because of the new experiences I’ve made. Likewise, I don’t feel different because I briefly had my dream job, but because of the challenging and new type of work I experienced. It isn’t about the final destination of the pilgrimage, but the unexpected journey along the way.

My favorite philosopher Alan Watts speaks to this pilgrimage conflict in terms of a musical composition. He reminds us that we don’t go to a concert to just hear the final crashing note, but we are there for the full composition: to sing and dance along with the music. I am not saying leading a life of pilgrimage is wrong, but make sure that the trek doesn’t always go according to plan, that there is experience of struggle and failure, where your ideals and interests are explored, and that this constant challenging of yourself leads to an improved and changed you: a pilgrimage towards change.

Bold change is needed for innovation; it’s not enough to finish college and to expect to stay the same. Many social problems come from this need to desperately hold on to the status quo. My previous comment of my experience of this chaotic whirlwind of change is not unique. Everyone experiences numerous obstacles I could not imagine overcoming, with their own unique transformations. Especially today, with technology and the availability of information increasing faster than ever before, change seems to come at us at an almost overwhelming rate. This outside change also has another real affect, personal self-transformations.

So what have I learned most from ending both this internship and college? It is this constant outside change and self-transformation. That maybe creating a fixed goal is not the best approach, but rather to be always critical of the status quo, to be ever transforming, and actively direct the eventual change that is coming.

Zachary Raden is a recent graduate of UC Berkeley with a degree in sociology. He is interning at the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project as a Matsui Local Government Fellow.


A Pilgrimage towards Change

Wed, 07/29/2015 - 4:10pm

Posted by Matsui Local Government Fellow
Zachary Raden

Writing my final blog, I sit staring at my computer screen in reflection. In reflection on not only the surprises I’ve had over this summer, but also the unexpected journey I’ve experienced to be here today. Graduating from the University of California, Berkeley in May, this internship has been almost an extension of Berkeley to me, and for this reason, this final blog feels very much like a farewell to my academic journey and all that it has meant to me.

For this farewell, I want to speak about the crossroads so many graduating students experience. On the one hand, there is the “high school you”—with all your ambitions, interests, and goals—determined to endure the pilgrimage you set out for yourself. Everything you did or hoped for was fixated on this goal, almost to a point of blindness, where you keep waiting to arrive at the end and finally reap the rewards of your labor.

But on the other hand, there is the “new you,” that was changed because of this pilgrimage. The career you set out for yourself in your adolescence is surprisingly no longer the same. The little doctor waiting to bloom perhaps bloomed into something you did not or could not imagine. You find yourself a different person than when you first arrived at college: and maybe that’s not a bad thing.

The past 4 years of my life has been a chaotic whirlwind of change. It seems as if every 3-6 months, some grand event impacts my life that I need to address and reflect on. This internship alone is an excellent example. Part of me worried that they wouldn’t find any work for me and it would be a series of mundane valueless tasks, that any possible worth it would have would be the extra bullet point I could add to my resume at the end. However, it flourished into this brilliant sociological project. I was not only researching existing sociological works, but combining and adding insight within these models. Bouncing ideas around with my boss Brian Beveridge, our conversations and diagrams about social cohesion unexpectedly became a model to fight gentrification within developing cities through social investment. Even more shocking is that the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP) is publishing my work and there is a possibility that the City of Oakland and the foundations working with the city might utilize it in their multi-year plan for Oakland!

Two of my simplified illustrations for my social cohesion presentation

I took the most I could out of this internship opportunity, and in return it gave me the experience of one of my dream jobs in Sociology. I even gave a PowerPoint presentation on my social cohesion report to community leaders and city officials. Seeing your own model and theory outside a classroom setting, addressing an issue as important as gentrification and having an audience studying it, was certainly a powerful moment. But I also learned that sitting on a desk for 8 hours doing research and writing reports can be draining. I enjoy diversity in my work, the mobility to perform various tasks and meet new people with new ideas. Interning at WOEIP, it certainly had a good deal of this diversity, with even a visit from a documentary film crew using their new aerial drone. However, it did open my eyes that maybe my dream job of research and report writing is not exactly what I envisioned.

Documentary film crew using their new aerial drone for a scene.

This is where it comes full circle.

I was fixated on this pilgrimage. Elementary school led to middle school, middle school led to high school, high school led to community college, where finally community college led to transferring to UCB where I obtained my degree. My career goal was also this pilgrimage; although it had occasionally changed over the years, it always manifested into this single job or task that eventually needed to be reached. However, I don’t feel different because of the degree, but because of the new experiences I’ve made. Likewise, I don’t feel different because I briefly had my dream job, but because of the challenging and new type of work I experienced. It isn’t about the final destination of the pilgrimage, but the unexpected journey along the way.

My favorite philosopher Alan Watts speaks to this pilgrimage conflict in terms of a musical composition. He reminds us that we don’t go to a concert to just hear the final crashing note, but we are there for the full composition: to sing and dance along with the music. I am not saying leading a life of pilgrimage is wrong, but make sure that the trek doesn’t always go according to plan, that there is experience of struggle and failure, where your ideals and interests are explored, and that this constant challenging of yourself leads to an improved and changed you: a pilgrimage towards change.

Bold change is needed for innovation; it’s not enough to finish college and to expect to stay the same. Many social problems come from this need to desperately hold on to the status quo. My previous comment of my experience of this chaotic whirlwind of change is not unique. Everyone experiences numerous obstacles I could not imagine overcoming, with their own unique transformations. Especially today, with technology and the availability of information increasing faster than ever before, change seems to come at us at an almost overwhelming rate. This outside change also has another real affect, personal self-transformations.

So what have I learned most from ending both this internship and college? It is this constant outside change and self-transformation. That maybe creating a fixed goal is not the best approach, but rather to be always critical of the status quo, to be ever transforming, and actively direct the eventual change that is coming.

Zachary Raden is a recent graduate of UC Berkeley with a degree in sociology. He is interning at the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project as a Matsui Local Government Fellow.


Interconnecting Systems: Education and Juvenile Justice Reform

Tue, 07/28/2015 - 9:12am

Posted by Matsui Local Government Fellow
Gladys Rosario

Time is flying by here at the Alameda County Office of Education. It’s amazing to think that in less than a month I have been able to shadow, converse, and learn from such impactful leaders in the educational community. They have all provided vast insight into how the County functions and deepened my knowledge about educational issues such as the school-to-prison pipeline, education budgets, state education policy and much more. I’ve dipped my toes into various ongoing projects, but one I want to briefly elaborate on relates to juvenile justice reform and the education system.

I’m standing in the room where the monthly Board of Education meetings are held. This is where elected Board trustees discuss and vote on education policy issues, such as approving the County’s annual budget.

One project that I’m currently working on involves the implementation of a new webpage for the Youth Justice Education Summit that the County organized last year. The day-long conference in Oakland convened community leaders, education policymakers, and local youth to learn about and begin participating in wide-sweeping reform that needs to take place throughout the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

The County has a stake in seeing that juvenile justice reform takes place because it manages multiple school sites that directly serve youth who are at-risk or have experienced the punitive and frequently harsh realities found within the justice system. The problem is typically described as a disturbing trend known as the “school-to-prison pipeline,” in which disadvantaged public school students tend to funnel into the prison or juvenile justice systems. A related problem is that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with California’s spending per prisoner increasing nearly three times faster than spending per K-12 student in the past two decades. There is undoubtedly a correlation between prisons and schools in the U.S., but how do we analyze and define the problem in order to reform?

In related news, I have a job! ACOE is now temporarily employing me to take on administrative assistant duties.

To better understand the County’s juvenile justice reform work, I interviewed the current and former County Superintendents, a County program director, and a probation expert specializing in juvenile and criminal justice reform throughout his career. Throughout my interviews with these remarkable leaders I uncovered a wealth of information about the inequities and inadequacies of the juvenile justice system and how they connect to those found within the educational system. I realized that instead of rehabilitating and educating society’s most broken souls, we tend to imprison them. When will we learn to empower and invest—not imprison—the most vulnerable members of our society? Foster youth, low-income, and minority students are all populations with immense potential, but it is up to everyday citizens, policymakers, and community leaders to unlock this potential and view them as assets instead of deficits waiting to be locked away.

I’ve been working closely with Rose and Katrina, assistants to the Superintendent, as I transition into my new job duties that I will be taking on for the rest of the summer.

Some may wonder, why be concerned with juvenile justice reform in an educational agency? The truth is that the problems, inefficiencies, and inequities in our educational system cannot be viewed in a vacuum. Rather they must be analyzed within the context of other systems that are also in motion, such as our criminal justice and health systems, which also affect the outcomes of students. We must understand and leverage the resources of these neighboring systems in order to impact the most effective change possible. With effective systems and people in place, we can provide the education and services that students crave.

At Berkeley, I study capitalism and am encouraged to analyze the criticisms and benefits of this economic system in conjunction with our political system, so I understand how constructive a systemic analytical framework can be. And while it may be that one health policymaker or one education administrator may not engage in tackling system-wide reform, it is crucial that all leaders acknowledge the complexity of these systems and inform their decisions with this in mind. Perhaps future effective reform will perceive our world for what it is—systemic.

Another friendly face in the office-Patrick is the Public Information Officer for ACOE, and he and the entire Superintendent’s Office have made me feel welcomed.

There is no doubt our systems are broken, and those who suffer the consequences are usually those most vulnerable in our society. However, I also have no doubt that there are good people working tirelessly to reform and learn how systems interact. In fact, there is immense reason to hope—especially since the Superintendent’s administrative team recently attended a week-long systems thinking conference. I can only hope that this work continues to move the needle on improving the systems our communities, our families, and our loved ones all belong to, rely on, and live in every day.

Gladys Rosario is a senior at UC Berkeley studying political economy and global poverty & practice. She is interning at the Alameda County Office of Education as a Matsui Local Government Fellow.


Interconnecting Systems: Education and Juvenile Justice Reform

Tue, 07/28/2015 - 9:12am

Posted by Matsui Local Government Fellow
Gladys Rosario

Time is flying by here at the Alameda County of Education. It’s amazing to think that in less than a month I have been able to shadow, converse, and learn from such impactful leaders in the educational community. They have all provided vast insight into how the County functions and deepened my knowledge about educational issues such as the school-to-prison pipeline, education budgets, state education policy and much more. I’ve dipped my toes into various ongoing projects, but one I want to briefly elaborate on relates to juvenile justice reform and the education system.

I’m standing in the room where the monthly Board of Education meetings are held. This is where elected Board trustees discuss and vote on education policy issues, such as approving the County’s annual budget.

One project that I’m currently working on involves the implementation of a new webpage for the Youth Justice Education Summit that the County organized last year. The day-long conference in Oakland convened community leaders, education policymakers, and local youth to learn about and begin participating in wide-sweeping reform that needs to take place throughout the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

The County has a stake in seeing that juvenile justice reform takes place because it manages multiple school sites that directly serve youth who are at-risk or have experienced the punitive and frequently harsh realities found within the justice system. The problem is typically described as a disturbing trend known as the “school-to-prison pipeline,” in which disadvantaged public school students tend to funnel into the prison or juvenile justice systems. A related problem is that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with California’s spending per prisoner increasing nearly three times faster than spending per K-12 student in the past two decades. There is undoubtedly a correlation between prisons and schools in the U.S., but how do we analyze and define the problem in order to reform?

In related news, I have a job! ACOE is now temporarily employing me to take on administrative assistant duties.

To better understand the County’s juvenile justice reform work, I interviewed the current and former County Superintendents, a County program director, and a probation expert specializing in juvenile and criminal justice reform throughout his career. Throughout my interviews with these remarkable leaders I uncovered a wealth of information about the inequities and inadequacies of the juvenile justice system and how they connect to those found within the educational system. I realized that instead of rehabilitating and educating society’s most broken souls, we tend to imprison them. When will we learn to empower and invest—not imprison—the most vulnerable members of our society? Foster youth, low-income, and minority students are all populations with immense potential, but it is up to everyday citizens, policymakers, and community leaders to unlock this potential and view them as assets instead of deficits waiting to be locked away.

I’ve been working closely with Rose and Katrina, assistants to the Superintendent, as I transition into my new job duties that I will be taking on for the rest of the summer.

 

Some may wonder, why be concerned with juvenile justice reform in an educational agency? The truth is that the problems, inefficiencies, and inequities in our educational system cannot be viewed in a vacuum. Rather they must be analyzed within the context of other systems that are also in motion, such as our criminal justice and health systems, which also affect the outcomes of students. We must understand and leverage the resources of these neighboring systems in order to impact the most effective change possible. With effective systems and people in place, we can provide the education and services that students crave.

At Berkeley, I study capitalism and am encouraged to analyze the criticisms and benefits of this economic system in conjunction with our political system, so I understand how constructive a systemic analytical framework can be. And while it may be that one health policymaker or one education administrator may not engage in tackling system-wide reform, it is crucial that all leaders acknowledge the complexity of these systems and inform their decisions with this in mind. Perhaps future effective reform will perceive our world for what it is—systemic.

Another friendly face in the office-Patrick is the Public Information Officer for ACOE, and he and the entire Superintendent’s Office have made me feel welcomed.

 

There is no doubt our systems are broken, and those who suffer the consequences are usually those most vulnerable in our society. However, I also have no doubt that there are good people working tirelessly to reform and learn how systems interact. In fact, there is immense reason to hope—especially since the Superintendent’s administrative team recently attended a week-long systems thinking conference. I can only hope that this work continues to move the needle on improving the systems our communities, our families, and our loved ones all belong to, rely on, and live in every day.

Gladys Rosario is a senior at UC Berkeley studying political economy and global poverty & practice. She is interning at the Alameda County Office of Education as a Matsui Local Government Fellow.


The Summer I Found My Answer

Fri, 07/24/2015 - 9:45am

Posted by Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow Carli Yoro 

“Why do you want to work in government? It’s too bureaucratic, it’s inefficient, and you could be working somewhere else for more money.” This sentiment is not a new one. I have heard this from countless family members, friends, and even teachers/mentors. My biggest issue with that question and cynical perspective is not that people always present it, it is at times I have found myself almost believing it. Almost. Although I have tentatively responded to this question before, after seeing government in action this summer, I have found my definitive answer.

Me with two of my supervisors and Cal EPA Climate Change Advisers Mark Wenzel (Left) and Ryan Radford (Right)

I was recently in a meeting regarding transportation issues and Executive Order B-18-12 where I felt the action items seemed ambitious. I wasn’t sure how we were going to accomplish it all. When I voiced my concerns to one of my supervisors he said, “We can do anything we want.” At first I thought this was just hopeful confidence. But after he explained the process of how we could accomplish these goals through large scale coordination, meetings with key players, and smart planning, I realized we could actually accomplish the daunting task ahead.

A snapshot of California Environmental Policy Council members at the most recent CEPC meeting discussing biodiesel and renewable diesel.

It was moments like this one that made me realize that this tenacity, ambition, and bravery in the face of seemingly futile situations is what makes our government so groundbreaking. Yes we bicker and yes it is a slow process. But, the California government is made up of people who are willing to challenge precedents and do things that no other state has done before. As a state, we can be provocative. We are relentless. We always think we’re right. But, this gumption is what makes California the trailblazer for the nation. And at the heart of it all, California is this way because of its government and the people who serve it.

Those that have a desire to work in the California government all want the same thing. They have this passion to do all they can to help their cause and make California a better place. For me, it is working on climate change policy while for others it could be education reform or health care access. Whatever it may be, people here will fight for their cause no matter the institutional or cultural pushback. Many scoff and call these advocates naïve for their optimism. But I’ve come to realize it is not naiveté these dreamers have, but full understanding of the challenges ahead and the courage to try anyway.

Me with Cal alumnus and Secretary for Environmental Protection, Matthew Rodriquez

So why do I want to work in government? Because I want to strive to be like these people. I want to constantly push myself to do things no one believes can be done and be inspired by others while doing it. One of the best ways to do both is by working in the California government. So to all the nay-sayers that try to constantly suppress my ambition and preach their cynicism, I finally have my answer. The next time someone asks me “Why bother? You’re too late. You can’t change anything.” I will think of all those I have met and had the pleasure of working with this summer, remember their courage, and simply say, “Watch me.”

Carli Yoro is a UC Berkeley senior studying environmental economics and policy. She is interning at the California Environmental Protection Agency as a Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow.


From Cal-in-Sac to LULAC: Helping to Organize the 2015 National Youth Convention

Thu, 07/23/2015 - 1:46pm

 

Posted by Former Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow Jackie Caro-Sena

My involvement in Cal-in-Sac during the 2014 cycle has dramatically opened doors for me in ways I could not have imagined. Aside from gaining mentorship and networks in Sacramento, I was able to get a letter of recommendation from my former supervisor, the principal consultant for the California Latino Legislative Caucus, to be a participant in the UCDC Program in my final semester as an undergrad in the Spring of 2015.

LULAC Education and Youth Leadership Programs team at LULAC National Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah

For my UCDC internship I worked at the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) in Washington, D.C. as the Education and Youth Leadership Programs Intern. As an intern, I assisted in their nationally recognized programs, especially the Ford Driving Dreams Through Education grants (FDD), a program that gives grants to LULAC members who create programming with localized approaches that are aimed at reducing high school dropout rates among Latino youth. Upon graduation and completion of my internship, I was offered a fellowship to continue the incredible work that I was doing in D.C. but through their Sacramento regional office.

My first day back at LULAC was June 1st and right away I was put to work, just like I was on my first day of my internship in D.C. On my first day of my fellowship I helped with the planning of the LULAC National Youth Pre-Convention and Convention and the FDD Program. The LULAC National Youth Convention is held in parallel to the adult convention and was held July 6th to the 11th this year at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. During the Pre-convention, LULAC Youth from across the country stay in dorms and are offered workshops that will prepare them for college. The University of Utah has an incredible Olympic-sized stadium! During the Pre-Convention, I was a lead organizer and panelist for a panel on the First Generation Latina College Experience. I also organized a community service project for the youth at the local Wasatch Community Gardens. In addition, I moderated a panel called “McFarland USA, How Los Hermanos Diaz Changed Their Community.” During this panel, which was sponsored by Walt Disney Studios, we showed a clip of interviews of community members from McFarland, Ca (the town that the movie is based off), and then had the real Damacio Diaz, David Diaz, and Daniel Diaz speak on the panel. In addition, Disney was able to bring Carlos Pratts, an actor that played one of the leading roles during the movie.

After the Pre-Convention, the main Convention was held in the Salt Palace Convention Center. During that time LULAC Youth were also provided with workshops and activities for leadership development. For example, I helped organize a workshop in which Fernando Rojas, a first generation student who recently made national news for being accepted into all Ivy League universities, came to talk about the college admissions process and give advice on what to do for college applications. In addition, I helped put together a workshop in which the creator of Flamin Hot Cheetos, Mr. Richard Montanez, came to speak to students about identity and cultural background, and also to encourage them to be different and market their differences so that they can have a success story like his. He went from being a janitor to an executive at PepsiCo and is a pioneer in Latino foods marketing and branding. Finally, I was able to organize a panel called “LULAC Corporate Alliance Mentorship Power Hour” in which I worked with LULAC’s Development and Corporate Relations Team to bring top executives from Nissan, AT&T, Western Union, Univision, Walmart, NCTA, and Shell to speak with the youth about their career paths and give them advice on what they can do to be successful no matter which career path they chose.

LULAC interns with actress Angelica Vale from the original Ugly Betty!

Organizing these activities for the youth was one of many things I was able to be involved with. Another event I was able to help with was the Youth and Young Adults Awards Banquet, where I met Taboo, one of the singers of the Black Eyed Peas! I was so busy going back and forth that I had not realized he was sitting right next to me until one of my colleagues pointed him out! He was so humble and down to earth, which I really appreciated. I also got to meet Angelica Vale, a well-known singer, actress, and television personality in Latin America. I grew up watching her soap operas and was so excited to meet her in my hotel lobby, take a picture and watch her Emcee one of our events. The list goes on of the things that I was able to be involved with and even greater is the list of everything that every LULAC staff member helped organize throughout the week. Utah’s Senator and even the U.S. Surgeon General were able to come speak to all LULAC members. LULAC’s convention is definitely a nationally recognized event which has drawn up to 20,000 people in the past. I am very fortunate that not only was I able to attend, but also given responsibilities, that I was able to take the lead in workshops and activities that positively affect young people’s lives across the nation. The Cal-in-Sac program definitely helped prepare me professionally with my summer internship, preparing me for the responsibilities that I now have at LULAC.

Jackie Caro-Sena graduated from UC Berkeley in 2015 with a degree in Ethnic Studies and American Studies with a Concentration in Social Policy and Inequalities. In 2014 she interned for the California Latino Legislative Caucus as a Cal-in-Sacramento intern, and now works as the Education and Youth Programs Fellow at the League of United Latin American Citizens.


To Public Policy, or Not to Public Policy

Wed, 07/22/2015 - 11:16am

Posted by Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow Robert Nuñez 

I came in to the Cal-in-Sac program with a mission; I had the desire to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life. Simple right? After only 1 year as a Bear so far, I’m already entering my senior year. Naturally, I was beginning to get that “I have no skills or applicable knowledge” type of feeling, and freaking out about what was actually in store for me as a political science major with a public policy minor. My intention was to decide whether I would be spending most of my free time next year studying for law school, or begin preparing for graduate school.

While finding a definite answer is never easy, what I did discover is that my options are not as black and white as I thought, and that my future is not as bleak as I expected. One of the benefits of attending a University like Berkeley is being constantly bombarded by amazing opportunities, which could potentially give you a future. Cal-in-Sac has definitely been one of those opportunities.

Me with Senator Lara and my office colleagues.

One thing I learned is that I really enjoy public service. I enjoy waking up, putting on a tie, and walking into this amazing capitol building every morning. I enjoy getting to work with people I admire, and being mentored by accomplished professional individuals. Primarily, what I enjoy most is (honestly completely cheesy), being able to make a difference. I was fortunate enough to intern for Senator Lara, a senator with whom I share many beliefs, and whose policies have changed my life and the life of people around me. To see such sweeping change positively impacting the citizens of one of the largest states in the nation, and strongest economies in the world, coming from a single building, is incredible.

I still enjoy law, I have made time to study for my LSATS this summer, and I still plan on applying to law school, but I feel like I have a lot more options now. I have not yet interned for a law firm, but plan to in order to make a full decision.

Being in the capitol has also opened my eyes to a handful of other opportunities, which I will be considering after Berkeley. I will be applying to fellowships here at the capitol as well as around the nation. I will be applying for to the Capital Fellows Program, and hopefully PPIA and CORO. I am also considering applying to joint degree programs where I can work on my JD and my Masters in Public Policy at the same time. I enjoy knowledge, and enjoy being able to help people with that knowledge, and I’m not ready to set my future in a rut when there are still so many different roads to be discovered.

Me and fellow Cal-in-Sac Fellow Judy with Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León and members of the Capitol Fellows Program.

Me with other Cal-in-Sac Fellows at the State Fair.

This experience was fun and adventurous, I made friends, mentors, and established a network of incredibly bright people, but most importantly I accomplished my goals and gained incredible opportunities. I can say, for the first time, and hopefully not my last, that I am more excited than frightened for my future. Thank you Cal-in-Sac, fellow interns, and everyone I met on this journey. I will miss this summer.

Robert Nuñez is a UC Berkeley senior studying political science and media studies. He is interning in the office of Senator Ricardo Lara as a Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow.


The Law Lives

Mon, 07/20/2015 - 9:39am

Posted by Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow
Kerida Moates

Away from the Capitol, it’s difficult to understand the necessity of such a plethora of bills. It seems as though California has an incredible amount of law and regulation. So why pass so much legislation each week?

On Monday, June 29, I found the answer. Like almost every Monday afternoon, I attended the Assembly Committee on Transportation. When SB 344 came before the Committee, I watched as two grief stricken parents testified to the committee about how their son, Daniel, was tragically killed when a truck driver lost control of his vehicle and hit Daniel’s car. The bill would require an individual to complete a course of instruction through the DMV in order to obtain a commercial driver’s license. Daniel’s parents, and the author, Senator Monning, felt as though increased training would help prevent future tragedies.

The Committee spoke in regard to how difficult it would be to “receive that call,” referring to the news that their son had been killed. When discussion ceased, the Chair, Assemblyman Frazier, moved to call a vote. But first, he paused and allowed the entire committee room to fall silent. The Assemblyman choked, before finally saying that he too knows what it feels like to “receive that call.”

What was impressed upon me that day, and throughout my internship, is that the law is living. It evolves and adjusts to the changing needs of constituents. While thankfully not every piece of legislation stems from stories such as Daniel’s, the law is constantly changing to better serve our state.

Me with Assemblymembers Marie Waldron, Beth Gaines, Young Kim, Catharine Baker, Melissa Melendez, Kristin Olsen, and Ling Ling Chang

Kerida Moates is a UC Berkeley junior studying political science. She is interning in the office of Assemblymember Catherine Baker as a Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow.


Off the Clock, but Not Off the Grid: Networking as a Full Time Job

Tue, 07/14/2015 - 2:06pm

Posted by Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow
Laura Jessica Douglas

First one in, last one out. This was the key to success that my mentors promised would separate me from the ranks of the average employee. Although this has definitely held true for me throughout my career, I must acknowledge that it hasn’t been hard work alone that has propelled me through a phenomenal community college career and into a full ride at the world’s top public institution for higher learning.

With my boss, Assemblymember Ridley-Thomas. At only 27 years old, he is making big things happen in California.

It’s interesting that in talking to established folks here in the capitol, “work hard” is no longer the token advice given to me. Working hard is a given, like breathing. Now, time and again the new golden piece of advice is “meet more people.” And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.

Work doesn’t end after I leave the office. Every day is peppered with the opportunity to attend countless briefings, premiers, hearings, and happy hours. There are receptions and fundraisers galore as well as vast opportunities for lunch or coffee dates.

As I reflect on what I learned as an intern in the Office of Assemblymember Ridley-Thomas, I realize that the most valuable knowledge gained has come from the myriad of conversations with my coworkers, colleagues, and others. Throughout my time here, I’ve met with dozens of individuals including Members, capitol staff, lobbyists, and representatives from a multitude of companies. From the first week of my internship I got involved in the Sacramento County Young Dems, attending all of their events and connecting with incredible young people who are already making a change in California. What often began as coffee with a stranger would result in a treasure chest of resources, experiences, networks, and potential job opportunities. They would eagerly share their experiences with me and readily connect me to other friends of theirs that would be willing to do the same.

Had a great time with the Sac County Young Dems at the California State Fair and then the Republics soccer game.

Coming into this internship I was unsure of what I wanted to do after graduating a year from now. I contemplated entering the Peace Corps, going off to law school, gaining work experience in my community back home in San Diego, taking a swing at D.C. politics, or coming back and capitalizing on my experience here in Sacramento. After hearing people’s experiences at every level, I am now better equipped to make an intelligent and informed decision about the possibilities each road has in store for me. That, combined with the technical and broad level knowledge I gained about real politics and pushing public policy, have left me in an excellent position as my internship comes to a close.

For those of you thinking about joining the program next year, I stress the importance of choosing an environment that will allow you to learn politics and policy while being supportive of a flexible schedule to pursue the invaluable networks that will take you to the next level. In Sacramento, it isn’t just about doing a good job or working hard. Getting yourself out there is job in and of itself and will result in countless more doors opening up for you during your internship and beyond!

The Cal-In-Sac team de-stressing at our weekly Trivia Night.

Laura Jessica Douglas is a UC Berkeley senior studying political science and global poverty & practice. She is interning in the office of Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas as a Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow.


Finding A Community In and Out of the Office

Fri, 07/10/2015 - 10:04am

Posted by Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow Sophie Khan

As my internship nears its end, I find myself reflecting more and more about what I’ve learned during my time here. What I will remember the most is the real-world experience I gained, which made me want to come back for more, maybe even as an Assembly or Senate fellow. Whether it was meeting with committee staff or participating in staff briefings with my Member, I got a glimpse of what life after college could be like, and I really liked the idea of it. For example, I was able to sit in on a staff briefing for the Assembly Labor Committee for a hearing that was going to deal with a few controversial bills including SB 3, which would increase the minimum wage. I then relayed the committee chair’s recommendations to my Chief of Staff and Member. I always knew I had an interest in labor issues, but actually sitting in on the meetings affirmed my interest in a way that nothing else could. I even got to put a bill across the desk. It was an Assembly Joint Resolution that called upon Congress to provide 15,000 visas to highly skilled South Korean nationals. I have also gotten to do bill research that I hope will turn into actual legislation sometime after I leave, such as a tax credit for senior citizen renters.

I got to put my first bill across the desk! AJR 24 deals with visas for South Korean nationals.

The second thing I’ll remember is the relationships that I developed with my co-workers and the other Cal-in-Sac fellows. It was great to work in an office where I had a good relationship with everyone, from the other interns to the Member himself. My supervisors looked out for me personally and professionally, whether we were just sitting down discussing the events of the day or if they were asking me about my professional interests and helping me set up meetings with committee consultants who could point me in the right direction. I hope to stay in contact with them long past this summer and hope to work with many of them again. In terms of the other fellows, it was great to always have people to debrief with on the light rail after work or to always have someone to go to an event with because it was likely that at least one person in the program shared the same interest as you. It would be great if some of us, through UCDC or Cal in the Capital, could have a reunion in DC next year!

Sophie Khan is a UC Berkeley junior studying political science and public policy. She is interning in the office of Assemblymember Kansen Chu as a Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow.


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