While most college grads are still scrambling to find a job, 22-year-old Queens native Julietta Lopez is working full-time for New York Senator Charles Schumer—and pursuing her Master's! The Colombian American go-getter started interning for the Senator during her senior year at Marymount Manhattan College and when she graduated last spring with a double major in International Studies and Political Science, landed a position as constituent liaison. Her first day on the job left her in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and FEMA disaster relief training was her first line of duty. We spoke to Lopez about how she helped the community recover from Mother Nature’s wrath, what it was like attending the presidential inauguration, and secrets to her success.
How did you assist Hurricane Sandy survivors? In the beginning it was hectic because people didn't know what to do or where to go. We told people where to get emergency and temporary shelter, how to apply for aide, and what to do if their homes were destroyed. People understand the process more now and are thinking long-term.
What exactly does a constituent liaison do? I do individual casework for New York residents. I'm in charge of environment affairs, FEMA, veteran affairs, military affairs, and department of transportation. When individuals have issues with any of those agencies, they'll write to the Senator and I'll deal with the casework.
What's a typical day like for you? I'll start off by reading new mail and making calls to constituents. Some situations are direr—if someone is going to have surgery and need their veteran's benefits, if someone needs an emergency leave from the military—and take priority. There's definitely a lot of phone time.
Rumor has it you attended the presidential inauguration. How was that? I'm still in shock. Senator Schumer was chairman, so his staff got once-in-a-lifetime seats. We were very, very close. It was unbelievable. One of the best views was looking back and seeing how packed it was. That's the moment you see how much people love this country. My eyes definitely watered.
What made you decide to get a Master’s even after you got a job? Growing up, my original plan was to go to grad school. I applied and got into the program I wanted, so I didn't want to stop once I got this job. It's definitely difficult to balance full-time school and work, but you know, the program is two years. That's two years to better my life. It’s okay to give up socializing. [Laughs]
You attribute much of your success Marymount Manhattan College. How did your school support you? They prepared me for everything. As a freshman, I knew I was going to make my mark on the school and they made sure I did. I started the Mock Trial Club and was president my first semester. I was on a bunch of executive boards and by my senior year I was president of student government. The administration really listens to the students and is 100% behind us. I just felt so lucky.
How did your parents raise such a disciplined student? Besides being an only child…the moment I was born they said their lives would be devoted to making sure I could do everything I wanted to do. My mom stayed home with me my entire life and my dad's an attorney, so he's always worked very hard. They believed in education. They know anything that has to do with work or school always comes first.
What are your long-term goals? I definitely want to go into public policy and move more towards legislative work so I can help the broader population.
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