Dressed uniformly and walking in a large group, students from the Texas Legislative Internship Program learn the halls of the Texas State Capitol building and find out where the cafeteria is located.
They will soon become very familiar with the offices, and even more with proposed bills. But Tina Tran, who runs the program, said their job is also somewhat stereotypical of an intern.
"We need the extra help, we need all the hands that we can get, so they brief bills, they staff bills, they do research, and sometimes they'll fetch coffee,” she said.
The 66 students in this year’s class will each receive a $7,000 stipend, but will be treated as full time staff members in lawmakers’ offices. The budget shortfall that affected teachers and senior citizens throughout the state also made its way inside the dome. Staffs had to be cut, which increased the need for interns to pick up the slack.
It’s the opportunity of a lifetime for some. Leo Coelho, a student from Brazil, said he looks forward to learning how "the great state of Texas" conducts its government.
"You can compare the legislative system, the judicial system, and the way you do politics here is kind of different," he said.
The program is sort of a big deal. Since its beginning in 1991 with four students, the program has seen nearly 600 students in its 22 year – or 11 session – history. Tran said three current state representatives went through the program themselves: Rep. Ana Hernandez Luna, D-Houston, Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston, and Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City.
Stewanna Miskell is a law student at Texas Southern University at the Thurgood Marshall School of Law.
Although she went back to school after a decade in the corporate world, she says she isn’t sure what she wants to do with her new degree. But she knows the opportunity to learn the legislative process will give her a leg up on the future.
“So I'm looking forward to an opportunity to assist Senator Ellis,” Miskell said.
District 13 Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis sponsors the program.
- Learn more about the program online at: www.rodneyellis.com/tlip