Campus: San Francisco State University -- October 25, 2002
SFSU Student Working In Washington, D.C., On Prestigious
A San Francisco State University senior is one of 22 students from California
colleges and universities participating in an internship program in
the U.S. House of Representatives through the Leon and Sylvia Panetta
Institute for Public Policy.
Martina Gillis, an urban studies major, left for Washington, D.C., in
late September for a three-month internship with Rep. Barbara Lee, an
Oakland Democrat. The well-known welfare rights advocate and native
San Franciscan said her first weeks have been hectic.
“So far, we’ve been consumed with the vote (on Iraq). Basically,
I’ve been responding to constituents who are expressing their
concerns about the war,” she said. “The phone calls, e-mails
and faxes have been overwhelming at times.”
Gillis, 35, has also prepared talking points for Lee and expects to
do research for potential legislation. The experience will help her
earn a minor in political science.
Gillis, who expects to graduate in May, was recommended for nomination
to the program by the San Francisco Urban Institute, the nonprofit research
and action arm of SFSU that addresses problems in the Bay Area’s
urban centers. Gillis was recommended because of her welfare rights
advocacy through the Coalition for Ethical Welfare Reform. She was a
founder and executive director of that organization.
“Martina has been active in the national policy debate for several
years now,” said Susan Alunan, associate director of the San Francisco
Urban Institute. “She’s been on welfare, she is raising
two children alone, she grew up in the projects of Bayview-Hunter’s
Point, but she
overcame a lot of obstacles. She walks the walk and talks the talk because
she’s been there.”
As an advocate, Gillis helped restructure San Francisco’s welfare
program, which she said has become a model for other cities by incorporating
housing searches into welfare-to-work activity for homeless families,
and maximizing options for parents to attend four-year universities.
“In my advocacy role, I’m usually at odds with government
officials, but so far the internship is going well,” she said.
“Part of the reason I wanted to do this is to see if I have what
it takes to work on the inside, and possibly one day run for office
The Panetta Institute, founded by former White House Chief of Staff
Leon Panetta and his wife Sylvia, is based at California State University,
Monterey Bay. The Institute sponsors a variety of study opportunities
in politics, public policy and government, as well as the Congressional
internship program. The Institute covers the interns’ expenses
and gives them a stipend while they’re in Washington. Students
will receive up to 20 college credits at the end of the program.
Though the Panetta Institute provides housing to the interns, because
Gillis’ 6- and 16-year-old children accompanied her to Washington,
D.C., she had to find alternative housing arrangements. The Urban Institute
spearheaded a fund-raising campaign to pay her children’s travel
expenses and housing for the three months.
Contact: Matt Itelson (415) 338-1743, (415) 338-1665, firstname.lastname@example.org