by Amy Vaerewyck
The first thing Sunner “Daniela” Hernandez learned at her Colorado State Capitol internship was what not to do:
- Do not enter the House floor without first checking in with the sergeant at arms at the door—and never during a legislative vote.
- Do not approach a legislator’s desk without her or his permission.
- Do not walk down the center aisle of the House floor between the Democrat and Republican seating areas. Everyone except the speaker must walk in the outside aisles.
Hernandez—who is spending 10 hours each week this semester interning at the historic State Capitol building—said the rules boil down to showing respect for the people who are representing us.
“You’re watching everything you do, because you hold the representatives at such a high level that you forget they have a first name,” Hernandez said with a smile.
A native of La Paz, Mexico, Hernandez’s family immigrated to the Denver area when she was in fifth grade, and she grew up in Aurora. Now, she’s serving in the office of Rep. Rhonda Fields, the Democratic representative for Aurora, whose district borders the Anschutz Medical Campus.
“I know the areas and population that Rep. Fields represents,” Hernandez said. “It’s a good match.”
This good match was possible thanks not only to the University of Colorado Denver’s Experiential Learning Center, but also to Women Helping Women Win’s “The White House Project.” Hernandez is grateful for this experience.
“I was excited to have inside information on what goes on inside the Capitol,” she said. “I got to see so many issues and find out what a legislator’s work day is like.”
Hernandez has gained a new appreciation for state representatives, who put in long hours at the Capitol, often on top of their own full-time jobs.
“It’s exciting to get things done and get bills passed, but it’s a lot of work.” And this is coming from someone who—in addition to interning at the Capitol, studying in class and raising her 10-month-old son—works full-time at a non-profit.
Through her internship, Hernandez has witnessed bill signings, attended press conferences and met notable politicians—like Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. She’s also helped research legislation that benefits a community close to her heart: immigrants.
“I want to help give people the opportunity to achieve all that they can,” Hernandez said.
With a bachelor’s degree in international affairs from CU Boulder, Hernandez is on track to complete her master’s degree in social science
at CU Denver next spring. She’s still undecided about a career in government politics, but she knows that—in addition to three university credit-hours—her internship has given her valuable knowledge and skills for the future.
“[An internship] exposes you to the outside world and gives you a window into a different career area,” she said. “You learn how to deal with people and how to connect with them. It’s definitely worth doing.”
Published: April 30, 2012