Giving students invaluable experience.
On Thursday, August 16, Assemblymember Felix Ortiz gathered with the students that participated in his annual summer internship program.
Each summer, Ortiz’s office welcomes high school and college students, many from Sunset Park, to learn about the legislative process through hands-on experience.
“I’ve been doing the summer intern program since 1995 when I first got elected,” Ortiz told this paper. “I believe that every single one of us elected to office should give an opportunity to our youth and empower them. For me, this is a great opportunity to have a very diverse group of kids who go to our high schools and some in college that went to public school in our district. It’s great to see them doing well. I hope this will give them a love for government and public service, and an understanding of the responsibilities and the duties of elected officials, and the caring and passion that we need to have in order to help other people.”
The students work about six weeks during the summer and receive a stipend. They were given the opportunity to choose a topic to research, preparing surveys and speaking to the members of the community to find out how they are affected by the issue they chose to delve into.
Participants said they learned a lot during the summer.
“This summer, I was a SOMOS researcher and I conducted a research report on housing regarding the Sunset Park community,” said Rebeca Lafond, a senior at Brooklyn College. “I’m so grateful to the assemblymember for this opportunity.”
“I am grateful for my six week internship at Assemblymember Felix Ortiz’s office,” added Carl Lima of Hunter College. “I was able to conduct formally my very first oral research paper. Throughout the process, I learned a lot, so thank you for inspiring me to become a leader for change.”
“I learned things I didn’t know and I can say he helps people no matter where they come from,” said Melany, a student at Fort Hamilton High School.
Over the course of the internship, the students researched the history of the issue locally as well as what has been done in similar situations in other cities, states, and countries, with the help of Ortiz and his staff.
According to Ortiz, this year students surveyed local residents about housing affordability and homelessness, which the students identified as two intertwined topics as the cost of living continues to rise faster than wages.
“These young people are our future leaders. This program gives them the opportunity to learn the process and hard work that goes into helping our neighbors and protecting our community,” said Ortiz. “I consider it a blessing to be able to facilitate this program and better equip these students with the knowledge and tools necessary to help serve their neighbors and community.”