2003-2004 Academic Year

Internship Creates Connections for Life

Pitzer College senior Vicenta Arrizon spends summer with Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute in Washington, D.C.

October 10, 2004
Summer is usually reserved for leisure for most students. Vicenta Arrizon, however, is not the typical student. She is devoted, much like other Pitzer College students, to using her time to further her work for social justice.

Vicenta Arrizon standing on the Capitol stepsVicenta, a senior focusing on political studies and economics, channeled her dedication into an internship this summer with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute in Washington, D.C. The Institute was established in 1978 as a non-profit, non-partisan educational organization dedicated to developing the next generation of Latino leaders.
“The internship brought together Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Colombians, Mexicans and others and opened us to the fact that we’re still a minority because our constituent groups are segregated with no unifying voice,” Vicenta said.

“Census data show that Latinos are the largest minority group with the fastest growth rate in the U.S.,” Vicenta said. “The challenges facing us are low high school graduation rates, careers for Latinos, and voting issues. The Institute is focused on these issues. For the first time in my life I was surrounded by other Latino students who want to bring about change.”

Vicenta worked closely with Linda Sanchez, a Democrat who represents the 39th Congressional District. Sanchez also serves as the legislative director on the Judiciary Committee in Washington.

“I experienced first-hand how a bill becomes a law and all of the hard work that goes into crafting the legislation,” Vicenta said. “Another of my responsibilities was to write letters to Sanchez’s constituents. I wrote nine to 10 per week in response to citizens who had written Sanchez in support of legislation or to request action in the district.”

In addition to connecting with constituents, Vicenta made important connections with other interns.

“These people will be my friends for life,” she said. “They are people I can talk to about my options and with whom I can share my experiences.”

Latino students at Pitzer should take political science classes to gauge whether they are interested in the internship.

“You should apply at the beginning of your sophomore year. Start by looking at the process and check out the Web site (http://www.chci.org/). Interested students should also call the Institute with any questions they may have about the internships. And get involved in the community because it demonstrates that you want to make a difference,” Vicenta said.

Now that she’s back at Pitzer for her final year, Vicenta said she is beginning to gear up to apply for law school and fellowships with the California State Senate. Outside of class she still has an active interest in volleyball, serving as the assistant varsity coach at the Webb Schools in Claremont.

Vicenta’s next goal is to take an active role at the Pomona Day Labor Center.