GBHS students participate in political campaigns

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Photo Credit: Nicolas RaymondCreative Commons License – Attribution 3.0 Unported

After experiencing the November midterm elections, some of the tensions of political races and campaign rivalries have drawn a few of Granite Bay High School’s students into the political arena.

Seniors Daniella Cassano and Sumana Kaluvai both donated their time to political campaigns this fall.

Cassano interned at the Capitol office of Assemblyman Brian Nestande (R-Palm Desert) over the summer and in the early fall. Kaluvai worked on the Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove) campaign during his 7th Congressional District race against former Republican Congressman and Sacramento business owner Doug Ose. Nestande lost his race to Democratic opponent Raul Ruiz, also of Palm Desert; Bera won his race by less than 2,000 votes and will begin a second term as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in January.

“I really enjoyed working with people on the campaign because they were all really nice, even though I was one of the youngest people in the office,” Kaluvai said. “Also, many staff members were recent (UC) Davis graduates, so it was really easy to connect with them.”

Kaluvai and Cassano said they interned because they were exploring career path options, they wanted to learn about political processes, and it allowed them to build connections for the future.

Both girls are in Jerrod Westberg’s Advanced Placement American government course at GBHS.

“I interned at … Nestande’s Capitol office over the summer and earlier this year,” Cassano said. “He ran for the Congressional district (that includes) his assembly district and unfortunately, lost. I worked in the Capitol office, where it is illegal to discuss or work on anything campaign related,” Cassano said. “But on my own time, I would help draft emails, letters and flyers.”

Bera ended up winning the 7th District Congressional race and Kaluvai made the discovery that she might want to pursue a career revolving around politics and policy.

“I am really interested in getting involved with policy making from a science perspective or maybe even pursue law to represent research and/or pharmaceutical companies,” Kaluvai said. “I haven’t decided anything for sure, but this internship made me appreciate and learn more about how politics can affect business.”

Similarly, Cassano was inspired by the whole process of campaigning and is planning to major in political science in college.

“I’m going to major in political science and minor in business,” Cassano said. “This experience confirmed for me that’s what I want to do. I want to help write legislation, and I learned that because of my experience.”

Westberg, the AP government teacher, said these opportunities for students are beneficial and a great way to become educated on such an essential part of American culture.

“I think it’s great for them to get the experience and see what it is like behind the scenes,” he said. “Selfishly for me, I love it because I get cool information from them from what they see, especially stuff that’s really interesting or really strange.

“I think it’s such an eye opener for them, especially if they are planning on majoring in political science or go into law.”

Through their internships, Cassano and Kulivai both increased their knowledge of the political world and enjoyed working with intelligent individuals.

“The people working on his campaign were so passionate and truly believed in Nestande and the moderate Republican that he is,” Cassano said. “It was nice experiencing that. He really treated me like an equal and not an intern, which was an amazing experience.”

Building a network of contacts was a prominent lesson that both girls came to appreciate.

“The main thing I learned from the campaign is the importance (of) how to build a network,” Kaluvai said. “I got to attend many events where my bosses taught me how to gain contacts and create a network in case I am looking for similar opportunities in the future. “The best part was getting to meet famous politicians like (former president) Bill Clinton and (California lieutenant governor) Gavin Newsom.”

Westberg said having young people serve as interns is beneficial to not only the young individuals themselves, but also to the political parties.

“It is fantastic (for them) to see how the system works,” Westberg said of how students benefit. “I think it’s cool how (political parties) are reaching out to high school kids because both those parties need so much help with the younger population. … They never talk to the younger population, so when they come and try to recruit younger people, I think it’s great.”

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