CSU Voices and Views

A Call to Public Service

By Steven Avila
CSU Monterey Bay Alumnus
Special Assistant, Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, US Department of the Interior

When I transferred from community college to CSU Monterey Bay in 2009, I thought I knew what I wanted to do with my life: I would study business, graduate and move up to Silicon Valley or New York to pursue a life of big deals and enterprise.

But later that year, the most incredible opportunity flashed into my student inbox and it changed my life forever.

It was an application for the Panetta Institute Congressional Internship Program. Every year, the program sends one student from every CSU to Washington D.C. to intern with a member of congress from the California delegation. It pays for your trip, provides a stipend, and you receive college credit.

I remember thinking, “wow, this is an unbelievable opportunity, too bad I don’t have a chance.”

But one application, several group interviews, and some essays later, I was selected to represent CSUMB in the 2010 Panetta Internship Class. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Working on Capitol Hill, living in Washington and being surrounded by the most dedicated, hard-working people I had ever met confirmed to me that I had to dedicate my life to public service.

I returned to Monterey my senior year with renewed vigor and focus, knowing I had to get back to Washington. I applied to the White House Internship Program. Little did I know that not only would I be accepted for the spring 2012 semester, but after graduation I would be offered a job within the Obama Administration as a Senior Analyst in the Office of Presidential Correspondence.

And after two amazing years at the White House, I am now working for Secretary Sally Jewell at the Department of the Interior in the Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs.

It has been an incredible journey, and one that I never thought was possible. Despite all its dysfunction, Washington is a wonderful place to meet brilliant people attempting to do some pretty amazing things. We are all driven by different interests, but by working together on behalf of our fellow citizens, we can truly make this country the best that it can be.

President Kennedy said it best when he said “Let the public service be a proud and lively career. And let every man and woman who works in any area of our national government, in any branch, at any level, be able to say with pride and with honor in future years: ‘I served the United States Government in that hour of our nation’s need.'”

I never would have been on this path had it not been for my internships and the education I received while at CSUMB. I’m grateful for the opportunities I have had, and I will never forget them, but I am even more excited to see what is in store for the future.

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  • Michael

    Congratulations! Your story is inspirational. Thank you for sharing it.

  • Don Web Solutions : Custom Website Design San Francisco

    Congrats Steven.. We are proud of you.. MADE IN THE CSU!!! WOO HOO… SO many alumni from all 23 camupuses doing great things.. We need to hear more stories like this..

  • Paul

    Public service can make the world of difference far beyond what you see and hear. It’s pretty cool being part of something greater than yourself and your work may lead to a greater tomorrow for both your local community and your Country!

  • Dianne Harrison

    Steven- Thanks for sharing your story and it is great to hear you are doing well! Dianne

  • Jill Hosmer Jolley

    Great to read your blog! I posted it on the CSUMB School of Business facebook page too so hopefully many of your old classmates will see it!

  • Eduardo Ochoa

    Congratulations, Steven! You do us proud here at CSU Monterey Bay!

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