What led me to where I am at…

This was written April 7th, 2016 for the California Catholic Conference in a blog. Originally titled, “Intern Grateful for Opportunity.”

While attending mass one day at my parish, Holy Family in Citrus Heights, friends recruited me to help with a voter registration drive. The Sacramento division of Area Congregations Together (ACT) was sponsoring the drive and soon I become more involved with the group. I worked actively on Proposition 47 through phone banks and other grassroots efforts.

My efforts did not go unnoticed and soon Gabby Trejo, an ACT community organizer offered me an internship with the California Catholic Conference (CCC). It was a great opportunity, since I needed a part-time job for school. Little did I know how much it would alter my career path.

Gabby Trejo (Right), Felix Castañeda (Center) a community leader from South Sacramento on a recently visit to D.C. for Lobby day.

Through this internship, I made my first trek across the country to Washington D.C. for an intern orientation with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Here we attended workshops devoted to Catholic Social Teaching, social media training and how to promote human dignity issues. The CCHD opened my eyes to how restorative justice affects our lives as Catholics and as members of society. I was excited to take all I had learned back with me to California and get to work.

My first day at the Conference was a blur. Meeting with my new supervisor, the expectations of the job were placed in front of me and I hoped I could handle the new responsibilities. As I settled into my new role, I was able to see all the work that the Catholic Church does in prisons, at the Capitol, in parishes and how this helps communities prosper. I was able to visit San Quentin State Prison, notorious for its Death Row and witnessed first-hand the positive effect that restorative justice programs have on prisoners.

Catholic Lobby Day, California State Capitol, April 19, 2016

Looking back, I see how far I have come, how much I’ve learned and I am grateful I took this internship and the opportunities it provided. Through my work here, I have a newfound respect for legislators and started to envision a future where I would be the one writing legislation. It led me to apply for a position with my local community board where I was eventually nominated to the board.

I see a great future in politics for myself and I hope to take this new skill set and apply it back to my community where I can help those that need it most.

Thanks to the CCHD internship, through People Improving Communities through Organizing or PICO, I was even able to fly out to the east coast a second time to see Pope Francis. I was able to be there for every part of his journey, from Washington D.C. to Philadelphia. It truly was one of the best trips of my life and without this internship, I would not have had that amazing experience.

Pope Francis in his Pope Mobile, driving by thousands of people lined up to see him. September 27, 2015. Philadelphia, PA.

I only wished that I had more time to learn and grow in this position. I am looking forward to the next step in my career and thankful to continue my studies with a renewed focus on politics and social justice.

Legislative Visit with Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA7) to talk about the separation of families. Gabby Trejo (Left), Rep. Ami Bera (Center), Felix Castañeda (Center), and Myself (Right).