Karla Monjaraz barely could contain her excitement on the heels of beginning an internship in the Congressional office of Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma). She started on Monday.
Monjaraz, 19, of Bethany, is an unpaid staffer during the four-month gig in the Nation’s Capital. She identifies the job as a springboard to a life she desperately seeks, and she hopes to make a splash one day by completing a law degree and working in the political realm.
She has begun pursuit of an associate degree at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City but must place a hold on school temporarily, due to the internship.
Monjaraz is a 2018 graduate of Bethany High School and of the Digital Media Technology program at Canadian Valley Technology Center, where she says she discovered her leadership potential.
“Canadian Valley molded me 100 percent,” she said. “I didn’t know I had leadership potential in me. It was my teacher (Afton Jameson) who encouraged me to write and talk to people. I got into competitive prepared speech in BPA (Business Professionals of America, a student organization). I found I have a knack for it.”
Monjaraz finished second in the state her junior year in the BPA prepared speech contest and placed first her senior year, which qualified her for nationals. She placed 12th in the nation in 2018 in the same contest. She also became a SkillsUSA state officer and was a two-year member of the National Technical Honor Society while at CV Tech.
Challenges remain. Monjaraz paid for one-way airfare and saved enough to pay up front for a deposit and for the $1,180 per-month rent of a 1-bedroom living space that shares a bathroom and living room. She chose the location for its affordability and because of its proximity, a 30-minute walk to work.
“I am a first-generation American,” Monjaraz said. “I do not come from privilege. That’s why this is so important to me. My mom is a waitress, and my dad works on trailers.
“Every opportunity in D.C. is worth my time, regardless of party, and I’m doing this because I want the exposure and experience of what it takes to serve.”
Job duties will include office work, such as assisting with emails, postal mail and with calls from constituents back home. She will also conduct tours.
Monjaraz was also offered a paid internship at the Oklahoma State Capitol, but she opted instead for national networking opportunities in Washington. Plus, she admires her new boss.
“I know Sen. Lankford brings forth a Godly presence,” she said. “He is also very eloquent.”
Her last job was working full-time at the Oklahoma Department of Education while enrolled in college classes. Monjaraz said she was recently exploring other job opportunities online, particularly those involving politics.
“There is a saying, ‘If you want to be a lion, you have to train with lions,’” she said. “I am doing this for so I can get experience. It’s my experiences with being at the Department of Education and through my leadership roles that really gave me the credentials I needed to even be considered (for the internship). It was a longshot I took a chance at.”
Monjaraz will share office space with four other interns, all of which are either college seniors or graduate students.