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After internship, student sees future in public office

Andrea ValverdeThe scene is vivid in her memory: She’s a little girl trying to explain in perfect English to a middle school principal why she didn’t need to be in ESL classes. At the same time, she’s translating to her mother in Spanish that her new school is woefully misjudging her academic abilities. Now at age 30, Andrea Valverde can’t hold back tears remembering what it was like to be put in a position that was intimidating and terrifying.

That experience became a motivating factor in her academic life, and her determination propelled her to be the first Salt Lake Community College paid student intern through the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel in the Utah Legislature. Valverde interned with Reps. Angela Romero and Susan Duckworth for the 2016 legislative session.

She managed schedules, attended meetings and events, helped with social media, provided updates on bills and prepared for media interviews. She attended community councils, town hall meetings, galas and functions at the Capitol. She participated in the Martha Hughes Cannon Caucus, composed of former and current female legislators. “It’s a bipartisan group that inspires other women who want to participate in state politics,” Valverde says.

The first woman who inspired Valverde was her mother, Alba, who moved from Guatemala City to California in search of a better life. Her father, Mario, crossed the border on foot from Mexico, looking for work. The pair met in a church in Los Angeles. The family moved from California to Utah in 2000, when Valverde was in ninth grade.

 Valverde had “really bad grades” in her first attempt at college, taking general studies courses. She worked in a secretarial job for 10 years, and then a brief period at a nonprofit agency. She realized she needed a career plan and her older sister, Rebecca, signed her up last fall for her first classes at SLCC, where a political science instructor recommended her for the internship.

 Valverde is attentive and a stickler for detail, says Rep. Duckworth. “She has been willing and ready to research and does an excellent job and goes beyond what is expected.”

Valverde’s internship showed her that one person can make a difference in government. “This experience has also made me rethink what I want to do, and I can say that now those plans may include something in public office or community council,” she says.