Meet Penn Hill Group’s Summer interns, Mayra Herrera and Julianna Collado. Mayra is currently a fifth-year transfer student majoring in Political Science and Chicano Studies at the University of California, Berkeley and Julianna is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy and a minor in Latinx Studies. See below to learn more about all that they bring to the Penn Hill Group team!

Why did you decide to spend a semester in DC?

Mayra Herrera

Mayra: As a participant in the Capital Public Service Program, I was introduced to the world of advocacy and had the opportunity to explore my passion for public service. Most of my public service has been done at the local community level and I want to gain insight into what it is like to be an educational policy advocate at the Federal level. Additionally, as someone who is a California native, I was very curious to see how different DC living is from the West Coast.

Julianna Collado

Julianna: As someone who experienced most of college virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was eager to have an in-person internship experience. I have always been interested in politics and policy and just have not had the chance to be in D.C. for an extended period of time. When I met some of the Penn Hill staff through my fellowship with UnidosUS, I knew working here would be a great opportunity for me to learn more about how people think about, advocate for, and implement education policy at a Federal level.

What do you hope to do or learn during this internship?

Mayra: I’m really looking forward to participating in projects with the clients that Penn Hill works with and seeing how these organizations tackle legislation to best serve their respective communities. I am also super excited to refine my research skills and learn the policy process, as this is my first internship and I am still very new to the public policy space.

Julianna: Through my college classes, campus jobs and grassroots organizing, I have been able to engage with education policy from a local level, so I am excited to have the opportunity to extend my knowledge and experience to the federal level. I also hope to sharpen my knowledge of the technical details of the legislative process and improve my writing.

What interests you most about education?

Mayra: Education is such a powerful tool, and everyone deserves equitable access to it. Education can move mountains for people, it empowers people, and it improves lives. Everyone’s path to education is different, and I love hearing people’s stories of how they go into higher education. The road to higher education is not linear, and that’s why I strive to make it accessible for all.

Julianna: I think my family is a huge reason why I am interested in education. I grew up with a keen awareness that education has been a force for equalizing communities across the country. My dad was raised by Afro-Cuban immigrants in the Bronx who emphasized the importance of doing well in school to provide for their families. My family credits their success to their education, which is in part true, but I know that many families did not have the school systems, resources and support needed to realize their dreams. I am drawn to education policy so that I can be a part of the changes that make schools the equalizing force that many hope it would be.

What are some of your future goals?

Mayra: As I’m entering my final year at UC Berkeley, people keep asking me this million-dollar question! What I do know is that I want to go to graduate school eventually, and I want to return to DC too. My next chapter has yet to be written, and I don’t mind where it takes me as long as I’m advocating for my community.

Julianna: One of my short-term goals is to complete my master’s program (which she will soon begin at the University of Texas-Austin studying Education Policy and Planning). Longer term, I would like to return to D.C. to work on the Hill either in a member office or on an education committee.