In 2007, Lester Murillo’s mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and he witnessed his once adventurous and loving mom turn into a mentally unstable recluse who believed her family was out to kill her.
While helping his mother get treatment, he became frustrated with some of the inefficient public policies regarding mental health. He saw how many of the rules and regulations to qualify for government assistance made accessing any form of aid difficult. In fact, it took seven years for him and his family to navigate the barriers blocking government assistance for his mother’s mental healthcare.
The experience is the impetus behind Murillo’s desire to become a lawyer who will advocate for the rights of the mentally ill. It was also the reason for his applying for a spot in the 16th annual Congressional Internship Program sponsored by the Panetta Institute for Public Policy.
Murillo, a senior criminal justice major at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), will spend this fall semester in Washington, D.C. as the campus’ 2014 representative in the institute’s Congressional Internship Program.
“ I wanted to apply for the internship because the efforts of the Panetta Institute to educate students on public policy, government infrastructure and leadership align with my future goals. From the experience I hope to learn more about the rationale and process of policy making by the government. I also hope to grow both as an individual and as a leader. ”
A Long Beach resident and 2010 graduate of Long Beach Poly High School, Murillo will be one of 26 California students (one each from the 23 CSU campuses and three others from Dominican University, Saint Mary’s College and Santa Clara University) participating in the program.
The interns’ experience begins Aug. 10 with an intense two weeks of preparation at the Panetta Institute, located on the CSU Monterey Bay campus. Following the two-week training session, interns fly out immediately to Washington, where they are assigned to and work full-time for 11 weeks in the office of a California member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“There is no one particular assignment that I hope for while interning in Washington,” said Murillo, who pointed out that this would be his first-ever trip to Washington, D.C. and to the east coast. “I feel like anything that I am assigned to during the internship will have some significance. (Then), I hope to use whatever I take from the experience and apply it to my future endeavors.”