February 2024Student Internship SpotlightSchool of Diplomacy News

Student Internship Spotlight: Congressional Internship with NJ Assemblyman Gary Schaer

Anthony Samaniego
Staff Writer

During the Fall 2023 semester for a duration of four months, I had the privilege to intern for my State Assemblyman, Gary Schaer (D-36) of Passaic, New Jersey. The internship opportunity was presented to me as a scholar for the Latino Institute at Seton Hall. I – along with another fellow Latino Institute Scholar and Diplomacy student – applied for this Legislative Internship opportunity. After a structured application and interview process, both of us were offered the position of Legislative Intern. 

On our first week interning for the assemblyman, we were introduced to office procedures, went out for a team lunch while receiving a brief tour of the Passaic area around the Assembly office, and met Assemblyman Schaer. Our first tasks consisted of reading constituent letters sent to the assemblyman’s office, each letter written about a different issue, and drafting response letters to the constituents on how the assemblyman will address their concerns. Following our first tasks with drafting responses to constituents, each intern was assigned to call back constituents who had previously contacted the assemblyman to update them with how their concerns were met.

As the weeks went on, each intern received individual or group tasks to complete as policy interns. One of my first individual tasks was to organize contact information from various businesses, nonprofits, and other government offices that the assemblyman worked with. Each intern was also assigned a separate policy assignment regarding different issues discussed in legislature. Each intern was responsible for writing a policy memorandum on their assigned topic to introduce to the assemblyman. My policy assignment consisted of writing a recommendation policy memorandum on cooperative sports programs in the state of New Jersey. In 2017, the allowance of cooperative sports programs passed under state law both in the State Senate and Assembly. However, it was vetoed by then-Governor Chris Christie. 

My policy assignment on cooperative sports programs took up a huge percentage of my time interning at the assembly office, at least for a month and a half, due to extensive research and addressing edits in my policy memorandum from the assemblyman’s Chief of Staff. While I was working on my policy assignment, I was multitasking with answering incoming phone calls from constituents, informing constituents about the Affordable New Jersey Communities for Homeowners and Renters (ANCHOR) property tax relief program, drafting response letters to constituents on behalf of the office, and analyzing various assembly bills.

Though I consistently worked on policy in the office for Assemblyman Schaer, I also got a glance of the work that the assemblyman and his office do outside of the office through government resource events and visiting local non-profits. On one typical Friday internship day in early November, the office team and I visited the Paterson-based non-profit Oasis, which aims to help women and children and where the assemblyman has donated money on various occasions. When visiting Oasis, I got a glance at the services they provide for low-income and immigrant communities of Paterson for people of all ages, such as skill classes and food services. On the day the assemblyman’s staff and I visited Oasis, we helped distribute food to residents after touring the building and getting to see the organization’s work.

During my internship experience, I had the opportunity to visit various other community organizations and events. In late November, I attended a Utilities Resource Fair hosted by the assemblyman’s office and Passaic Mayor Hector Lora, which was attended by hundreds of residents. On December 4, 2023, I had the privilege of visiting the New Jersey State House in Trenton with Assemblyman Gary Schaer and his Chief of Staff to witness the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee Hearing and voting session. 

Having the opportunity to witness the discussions and debates at the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee Hearing was the height of my legislative internship. Assembly representatives from various state legislative districts and the education sector were in attendance. During this visit, I got to witness how state representatives vote on and introduce legislation. The New Jersey Assembly Appropriations Committee holds sessions on the decision-making process regarding appropriating funding towards State government functions and resources. 

The week I concluded my internship under New Jersey Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36), the Assemblyman rewarded me with a certificate of completion of the internship and took a picture with the interns that would be published on his website.

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