Spotlight on Students: Scripps Students Intern on Capitol Hill, Envision Change for the Better

By Rachel Morrison

A young white woman with short brown hair wearing a white tank top and pink pants sitting on a ledge with the Capitol Building in the background.

For Madeline Moore ’22 and Olivia Gleason ’21, their summer internships in the office of Congressman Alan Lowenthal (D-CA 47th District, which includes Long Beach and a few other cities in Los Angeles and Orange Counties) is a chance to learn about how public policy and legislation can improve the lives of all.

“I grew up watching NewsHour, and I remember checking election results in the wings during a school play,” says Moore, a politics major who is especially drawn to policy work on immigration, civil rights, reproductive rights, and the environment. Gleason, a dual major in politics and feminist, gender, and sexuality studies, is most interested in working on legislation that combats climate change, abolishes the prison industrial complex, and ensures basic rights to to a roof over their head, healthcare, employment, and education.

A young white woman with brown hair and wearing professional clothing working at a desktop computer.

A typical day starts with assisting Congressman Lowenthal with the office’s administrative tasks: answering phones, responding to emails, and updating calendars. But for the rest of the day, anything can happen. “I’ve really enjoyed researching issues that constituents bring to the office, because I get to learn about new bills and expand my knowledge on new topics,” says Gleason. “I attended a briefing about the devastation going on at the border and the work that the ACLU and volunteers are doing to get people out of detention centers and improve their lives.”

Moore says, “We also get to give tours of the Capitol, record legislative decisions, and maybe, if we’re lucky, pet a Congressional dog.”

Adds Gleason, “This is what I really enjoy about working on Capitol Hill: you never quite know what you are going to be working on, and each day brings something new!”

For both students, the novelty of the experience has its perks, but what really draws them to political life is the desire to enact change for a more equitable society.

“During my senior year of high school—which coincided with the 2016 elections—I realized that I needed to be actively working to change this country for the better. Being at Scripps, being surrounded every moment by such inspiring individuals, I’m in a place where I’m learning to do just that,” says Moore.

A young white woman in a white tank top and pink pants posing on Capital Hill.

For Gleason, who hopes to continue to work with local communities and grassroots organizations in the L.A. area in the future, effective change comes from working and brainstorming with communities. “Scripps students, professors, and clubs like the 5C Prison Abolition Collective have played a large role in helping me understand the importance of change beginning on the community level,” she says. “I’ve learned the importance of working with communities and individuals rather than trying to impose, as well as centering voices other than my own.”

At the end of a hectic day on the Hill—which may not end until after 6:00 p.m. if Congress is in session—the students commute home to prepare for the next day of tours, legislative sessions, and administrative tasks. But the importance of making a healthy and happy life accessible and achievable for all is never far from their minds. “I like to have AmeriCone Dream ice cream for dessert,” jokes Moore. “It reminds me that regardless of what I end up doing long-term, it just has to be something that has a positive impact on people’s lives.”