St. Edward’s students intern at Texas Capitol for 84th legislature

If you walk by the office of state Rep. Elliott Naishtat (D-Austin) in the Texas Capitol this semester, odds are you might see a St. Edward’s University student. 

Seniors John Wooding and Jacob Tamayo, both political science majors, are serving as legislative aide interns with Naishtat’s office this spring. Naishtat previously taught as a St. Edward’s adjunct faculty member in social work, according to Tamayo.

Each year when the Texas legislature is in session, the Capitol begins to overflow with interns to help with the day-to-day work of the legislators’ offices.

Wooding and Tamayo are interning with the Capitol this semester as part of a St. Edward’s internship course. The instructor of the course, Peter Beck, said there are a total of 10 students taking the course this semester. There is no clear answer on how many St. Edward’s students are currently interning at the Capitol, because not all of them are political science majors nor do all interns take an internship course through the university.

For Tamayo, the internship mostly involves administrative work and interacting with constituents of the representative.

As an unpaid intern, his job is to make sure that people are greeted politely, but are not able to bombard the representative or his head staff with concerns.

Tamayo’s regular day includes greeting constituents who walk by the office and filing information about emails, letters and phone calls. Working in a state representative’s office has taught Tamayo a great deal about what it takes to upkeep a politician’s image and why working with voters is so vital.

When Tamayo graduates, he plans to enlist in the Air Force. He hopes working with the military will be a career for him.

Tamayo also mentioned that if he were to work in politics he believes more of an impact would be made in local politics.

“People in their own localities deciding how things are handled,” Tamayo said would be his ideal situation for personal political involvement.

Wooding interned with Naishtat’s office during the 83rd legislative session, making him the only returning intern during this session.

“I came back because I want to make a difference,” Wooding said.

“Last time I was doing more routine office clerical work,” Wooding said. “And our chief of staff in our office unfortunately is out for the session, recovering from an illness. And so the regular person that handles, kind of scheduling, education policy issues, kind of had to move up to the chief of staff position.”

These circumstances led to Wooding having the chance to show the newer interns the ropes.

Brittney Justice, a junior global studies major, is not receiving course credit for her internship at the Capitol, but says she cannot imagine working somewhere else.

Two years ago Justice selected the office of state Rep. Travis Clardy (R) as a place to intern, excited that Clardy represents Nacogdoches, where she was born.

For Justice, the start of the session has changed everything.

“I think it’s been, what, three weeks in? And I have learned more in this past three weeks than I swear I’ve ever learned in college and the year before interning,” she said.

Justice feels most of her peers are missing out by not walking down to the Capitol and engaging in the process.

“In Texas, we’re on the bottom of the voting list,” Justice said. “We don’t vote, and we’re young, and I know like in a lot of my classes students are complaining about tuition. We’re complaining about our loans and interest rates, and that’s something we can directly effect if we talk to our representatives and our senators, and I don’t think a lot of students take advantage of that.”