White House Internship

MPA Student Tapped for White House Internship

By Cristy Lytal

White House Intern Laura Peralta

If anyone needs to get in touch with USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development graduate student Laura Peralta this summer, they can reach her at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, D.C.

Peralta, who is working toward her master of public administration degree, has earned the prestigious distinction of being one of 100 nationwide students selected to intern in the White House under President Barack Obama. Between May 22 and Aug. 14, she’ll be one of only two interns serving in The Presidential Office of Cabinet Affairs.

“It’s interesting because Obama wanted to have a very diverse cabinet, and he wants people who are going to be challenging him and bringing in fresh ideas, and not just people who say, ‘Yes, yes,’ ” Peralta said. “And so for me, planning to go into public administration/management, it was really important to see how different people work together. So I thought that was a very valuable opportunity.”

The White House Internship Program mentors young leaders and gives them a hands-on understanding of the executive office. In addition to typical office duties, interns attend weekly lectures by senior White House staff, assist at White House social events and participate in community service.

As part of the Cabinet Affairs team, Peralta also will be tracking the travel of cabinet members, scheduling appointments for senior management, researching legislative affairs and preparing weekly reports for Obama.

“Their main thing is to make sure the cabinet members’ activities and speeches are aligned with the president’s agenda, so it’s one unified front,” Peralta explained.

During a meet-and-greet on day one of the internship, she’ll also be introduced to Obama himself, the man who inspired her to apply for the internship.

“The night President Obama was elected, I was sitting in class,” Peralta recalled. “And I remember wishing that I was at an election event, screaming, crying, and celebrating that amazing moment. That day I knew that I had to be in D.C. for both the inauguration and for the summer internship program.”

The White House internship will not be Peralta’s first glimpse of the inner workings of government. Before coming to USC, she interned with Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) in Washington, D.C., and worked for two years as a congressional caseworker for Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) in Los Angeles. She also recently completed an internship in Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s Office of Education, Youth and Families.

Peralta’s passion for government stems from a desire to help disadvantaged communities. In addition to dedicating a full year to the nonprofit Legal Aid Society of Orange County, she’s promoted both immigration reform and new citizen voter registration through the United We DREAM Campaign and the American Latino Voter Education Fund, respectively. As someone who immigrated to Anaheim from Argentina at the age of 9, these issues hit close to home.

“For me, coming here, being an immigrant, that route and that experience directed me toward public service,” she said. “And so that was an interest going to school, and as I did internships and jobs, I realized that I wanted to go into government.”

Peralta believes that the White House internship will give her a valuable opportunity to hone in on some post-graduation job prospects in Washington, D.C.

“I really don’t know what I want to do exactly, but I know that it’s in government, so I’m hoping this will help me narrow that down,” she said. “I have one more year to go at USC, so my goal for the summer is to really network and show that I have a good work ethic, that I’m very interested in issues in federal government and that I’m an asset.”

Photo courtesy of Laura Peralta