John Matthew Camara is a rising junior at Hobart College in Geneva, NY. He is pursuing two majors in International Relations and Economics. This summer, he will be interning with the USDA Forest Service in Washington D.C.
What major projects are you working on in your internship? What responsibilities are you most excited about and why?
I am an intern with Lands and Realty Management of the USDA’s Forest Service which currently manage nearly 193 million acres of public land as national forests and grasslands. Overall, my main duty is to assist the agency in whatever task they may need of me. Lands and Realty Management specifically deals with the land acquisitions and exchanges that take place in the agency. A couple of the major projects I am doing right now include drafting budget justifications for the fiscal year 2018 and congressional notification letters to be sent to congressional committees. I am most excited whenever I get to go a congressional committee hearing because I love getting to understand how interconnected D.C. is, and I am very much a political junkie. I find it fascinating that I get to listen to senators personally instead of watching it on a computer screen. In the end, I am happy that I am gaining an understanding of D.C.
When did you realize you wanted to explore public service?
I didn’t really have one particular moment, but rather, it was more from a culmination of many experiences I had throughout my life. In high school, I was in Key Club, a service organization, and I realized I enjoyed volunteering. I liked that feeling of helping others and the positive way I could impact my community. Key Club pushed my involvement with service. I led 10 schools in my community to organize and attend fundraisers and service events such as clothing drives, gift-wrapping, 5ks, etc. I also competed in high school speech and debate, and my favorite speech event was Original Advocacy (OA) in which I write and deliver an original, ten-minute, persuasive speech which identifies a current problem and offers a clear, concise legislative solution. In my senior year, I wrote about voter apathy, and I proposed a couple solutions like switching our voting system to ranked choice voting and extending the voting window beyond just a Tuesday. Through my experiences in OA, I learned about many other issues that impact others across California and the U.S. such as civil asset forfeiture and police brutality, but I was amazed at their creative solutions to the problems they discussed. Original Advocacy helped with my interest in public service because I learned I enjoy discussing important problems for communities and figuring out ways to solve them. After my four years of volunteering and speech and debate, I understood the impact public service can have on communities. Since then, other experiences including my college classes and collegiate student government reinforced my passion to pursue public service.
What are your plans/ goals after this internship? Are there any goals you want to accomplish this summer?
My main goal for the summer is to understand how a typical federal agency function, and I hope to use that knowledge to help me decide what career I want to pursue after college. I also want to engage with the many intern events D.C. has to offer, so I can meet new people and gain new connections. There are numerous things I plan on doing after my CAPAL internship. For one thing, I am studying abroad this fall in Spain. I plan on exploring across Europe, so I can visit places I have never been to before and gain new experiences that I doubt I will ever have again. I want to have more work experiences to improve my strengths and understand my weaknesses. I want to maintain the connections I make in D.C. in the hopes I can have a strong network to fall upon when I decide to return to D.C. for my career. In the long run, I want to pursue a public service-related career. However, I still do not know which specific career is right for me.
What are you looking forward to in DC / where your internship is located?
It is my first time being in D.C. this summer, and I can honestly say I’ve been enjoying every moment here. From awesome intern events to great restaurants, I admit I wouldn’t mind living here one day. I’m looking forward to exploring different parts of D.C. My internship is located by the National Mall which is so close to so many cool monuments and museums. D.C. is so accessible with its many restaurants, shops, and attractions. I am amazed at how so many places are within reasonable distance of each other. Because I’m such an adventurer, D.C. is the perfect place for me to be this summer. I am also excited to form new relationships with others (both personal and professional). Most importantly, I am eager to grow as an individual. My experience in DC has pushed my independence. I cook rather than go to a dining hall. I have to make a lot of financial decisions alone. It has only been a few weeks so far, but I feel I have already grown personally. I can’t wait to see what D.C. can offer me.
What do you do for fun?
I do many different things for fun. As a film geek, I LOVE movies. I watch a lot of movies (both current and classic), and I like to discuss the different aspects of a movie including the cinematography and character personalities. I also like to play tennis and jog in the afternoon. Eating is my favorite pastime, and I try new foods very often.
What is something that most people would not know about you?
Most people don’t know I lived in different communities of Hawaii, Texas, the Philippines, and California. I moved a lot when I was really young because of various reasons. Since I moved around many times, I never went to preschool, and I got to go school as one of the youngest in my class year. I finally settled down in a house by the time I was in middle school. Because I was pulled ahead a year, I graduated high school at 17 years old.
What has been the most interesting/ meaningful thin you’ve learned from CAPAL’s Washington Leadership Program so far? Why?
The favorite WLP so far was “Know History, Know Self” because it expanded my understanding of AANHPI history and how it is often erased in today’s society. For instance, I learned about the large-scale Filipino immigration into Hawaii starting in 1960s which related to me personally since both my parents also immigrated into Hawaii from the Philippines in 1995. Prior to that WLP, I had zero knowledge on that aspect of Filipino history. I also learned about the U.S. involvement in a widespread bombing campaign in Laos. I appreciated how much that WLP informed me of so many critical historical events in the AANHPI community. Overall, the WLP highlighted the erasure of AANHPI in today’s society.
Meet all of our CAPAL Scholars & Interns here.
Posted by Nattacha Munakata
Nattacha Munakata is currently a rising sophomore at George Mason University, studying Community Health with a concentration in Clinical Science (Pre-med). On campus, she is Peer Health Advisor, working to raise awareness and educate students on health issues. She is also involved in TEDxGMU and Thai Student Association. Outside, she likes to volunteer for local organizations and events, such as the DC Sakura matsuri and her local FIRST robotics team. During her free time, she likes to watch Netflix dramas and explore new music.