By Jesus Gonzalez, Capitol Pathways Intern
My name is Jesus Gonzalez, a Concordia College sophomore, and for the last couple of months, I’ve been the Capitol Pathways Intern for the Center for Rural Policy and Development. From start to finish the program and the Center have been great! Now at the end, I’m excited to write about my experience and what’ve learned.
On March 9th, Julie, the CEO and President of the CRPD, went on a visit to the Minnesota State Capitol. It’s one of my core experiences while interning because it was the first time, I saw Julie in person and my first time in the Minnesota State Capitol that wasn’t part of a school field trip. Our time had been themed with the motto of “Here’s the plan, we have no plan. So, whatever you find interesting let’s go and explore.” Truly an experience that came better without being planned out because we were able to meet with several Minnesota State Legislatures, including Representative Keeler, Representative Isa-Perez, Representative Feist, and Senator Kupec. Before this program, I hadn’t been able to talk to lawmakers like this, but because of this visit and conversation, I gained insights into the legislative process and opened the door to talking with several more lawmakers during this program. On the same day, we were able to sit down in the House Education Finance Committee, where we saw some of the debates and discussions shape the future of education in our state, and the Senate Higher Education Committee, where I testified a few weeks later. As Kaley Taffe, the Center’s person for politics, explained I had one of the best times I could have at the Capitol because of things I was able to see.
Comparing my day-to-day work to this Capitol visit may not sound exciting to most but this is where learning about rural communities happened most. For the past few months, I’ve been working on converting the Center’s work into social media-ready material and converting the Center’s Center of Everywhere podcast, a Minnesota rural podcast that delves into the heart of rural communities, into videos that can be shared on YouTube and other platforms. The Center’s podcasts have been fueling my understanding of what communities in rural Minnesota look like, but the Center’s research reports have helped me build an understanding of what affects these communities. As of right now Identifying Bottlenecks and Roadblocks in The Rural Mental Health Career Pipeline by Marnie Werner, Thad Shunkwiler, and Tracie Rutherford has been the most eye-opening research report, I’ve read, because I’m left worried about our neighbors in greater Minnesota who face a disproportionate lack of access to these services and the lack of conversation around this topic. In a few weeks, I hope that through engaging social media content and videos, I’m able to bring the unique stories and perspectives of rural Minnesota to life, furthering the work that the Center has done to build a sense of connection and understanding among Rural and Urban Minnesotans.
As the Capitol Pathways program nears its end, I’ll carry my time with the Center in my heart. It’s because of my time here that I’ve been able to witness the process of bill writing, the influence of lobbying, the fast-paced nature of being a lawmaker, and most importantly, the strength that those that want to be involved have. It is here that I’ve gained a new respect for everyone involved in the legislative process. Looking forward, I hope that while serving as the Student Body President of Concordia College that I’m able to put what I’ve learned here into building a better community for our students from both rural, urban, and the in-between.