Karla Lora '19 (SUNY Geneseo/Keith Walters '11)
Sociology major Karla Lora ’20, from Bronx, NY, has been named a finalist with the highly competitive Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) Congressional Internship Program. She is one of 24 undergraduate students selected to spend 12 weeks in Washington, DC, next fall interning in a congressional office and receiving leadership training from CHCI. The program is designed to give promising Latinx undergraduates experience in a congressional office as well as in leadership development and civic engagement through community service.
At Geneseo, Lora is a scholar in both the Ronald E. McNair Program and the JFEW-SUNY International Relations and Global Affairs Program (JFEW) and volunteers with the Migrante Intercambio de Lenguaje y Cultura to provide English language tutoring to immigrant dairy farm workers in the area. A student in the Isom E. Fearn Access Opportunity Program (AOP), she attributes much of her success at Geneseo to the supportive academic environment that program provides. Lora also serves as a student research assistant for anthropology assistant professors Melanie Medeiros and Jennifer Guzmán investigating structural obstacles Latino im/migrant farmworkers and their families face in accessing medical care in Western and Central New York.
Earlier this year, Lora, who is minoring in political science, won a competitive scholarship that allowed her to attend the annual Women in Public Policy Conference in Washington, DC, and “build my professional network by learning how to effectively maintain professional relationships while connecting with women leaders in DC and in my seminar cohort.”
Lora was also educated on the many legal and legislative opportunities for women interested in advocating on behalf of immigrants and/or other disadvantaged groups. Inspired by the career of her congressional representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Lora is still planning on attending law school after graduation but now believes she can “run for office in the near future, and advocate for issues that I am passionate about on Capitol Hill.”
Recently, Lora had the opportunity to meet and thank Rep. Ocasio-Cortez for her advocacy on behalf of the people of the Bronx and Queens. “As Ocasio-Cortez and the other diverse congresswomen take their places in the halls of Capitol Hill, they leave more and more doors open for women like myself,” she said. “Because of CHCI, I will once again travel to Washington, DC, but this time directly experience what it is like to work in a congressional office alongside other passionate individuals.”
As she described in a 2016 essay for the American Association for State Colleges and Universities, Lora’s family migrated from the Dominican Republic when she was two years old. Her mother chose to remain in the U.S. indefinitely by overstaying her visa and enrolled Lora in school as soon as she was eligible. Growing up, her immigration status was rarely an issue: “I first came to terms with my illegal status at the age of 16 when I started to think about attending university.”
When Lora was 17, the family moved into a domestic violence shelter due to her stepfather’s drinking and violent behavior. She was able to maintain her grades and even interned at a non-profit organization providing free legal advice for migrants applying for legal permanent residency. “I was lucky enough to gain legal status during the first semester after I enrolled in college,” she said. “However, my mom was not as fortunate.”
Geneseo student Danny Ruiz ’17 won a year-long CHCI Public Policy Fellowship in 2017. The nationally competitive post-baccalaureate program in Washington, DC, is designed to develop the next generation of young Latinx leaders interested in a career in public policy. Ruiz is presently a staff assistant in the office of U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
In existence for 40 years, CHCI works annually with approximately 1,600 students and young professionals “on a new trajectory by inspiring high school and college completion, and then providing programs to explore public policy and leadership in our nation’s capital. These vital opportunities empower Latinos for great personal and professional achievement.” CHCI promotes four Pillars of Leadership — civic engagement, social responsibility, self-empowerment, and promotion of community and Hispanic culture.
For more information about this and other nationally and internationally competitive scholarship, fellowship, and internship programs, contact Michael Mills, director of National Fellowships and Scholarships, at firstname.lastname@example.org and (585) 245-6002, or visit Fellowships and Scholarships.