2012 Alumnae (L-R) Mariam Ahmad, Amanda Patarino, Monica DiLeo and Molly Stoneman at the Annual United States Senate Youth Alumni Association (USSYAA) Alumni Day during Washington Week.
New blog feature: the Alumni Spotlight
With a new class of USSYP delegates preparing to arrive in Washington, D.C. next month, what a perfect moment to share how life-changing the Washington Week experience can be. Our first Alumni Spotlight features Amanda Patarino (CO – 2012) who points to her USSYP experience as a turning point in her academic and professional trajectory. Read about her path since Washington Week and the fascinating work she is doing in the presidential transition process. Stay tuned for more “Alumni Spotlights” in the weeks and months to come.
USSYP: What is your current role? What are your activities in that role?
Amanda: I am a research associate at the Partnership for Pubic Service, in our Center for Presidential Transition. In this role, I do data analysis, conduct interviews to document the transition process, work on data management on the federal workforce, help to create data visualizations, and my biggest project right now is managing the Washington Post Appointee Tracker. We are tracking 690 of the top Senate-confirmed positions that President Trump needs to fill in real time as they are nominated and undergo hearings in the Senate. Each day I learn something new about the appointments process, appointment types, or even term lengths.
USSYP: What does your organization do?
Amanda: The Partnership for Pubic Service is a nonpartisan nonprofit that works to make the federal government more effective for the American people. We have a few major work streams, including employee engagement, leadership development, federal hiring, government reform, and presidential transition.
USSYP: How have your goals changed or even evolved as a result of your recent work experiences?
Amanda: Before I worked at the Partnership, I always believed that the only way to change the government was from the inside out. The Partnership showed me very quickly that that is not true. I am committed to breaking the cycle of partisanship in our country and I’ve learned about different processes and strategies while working at the Partnership. Working on the presidential transition has also given me unique expertise and I would love to be involved with more transitions in the future.
USSYP: How did USSYP impact your current path?
Amanda: USSYP was my first time in Washington D.C. and my parents always say they knew when they put me on that plane that I was never coming home. I absolutely fell in love with the city, not just because we were getting the insider view of D.C., but because I saw firsthand all of the problems out there to solve and the program itself showed that you can take a large group of diverse individuals with completely different backgrounds and beliefs and they can come together to find more in common.
USSYP also led me to Senator Cory Gardner, who has played a big role in my path. I introduced then-Congressman Gardner at a luncheon on the Hill during Washington Week 2012 and since then I have interned in his office on the Hill and worked on his campaign for the Senate. I’ve met some great, committed public servants through these experiences and further defined my goals and interests. I admire Senator Gardner as an extremely successful fellow alum, but also as a great representative of my home state.
USSYP: Where are you from? How has this influenced you?
Amanda: I’m from Lakewood, Colorado, right outside of Denver. Growing up in Colorado definitely shaped my view of the world, especially in politics. Colorado has been viewed as a purple state for a long time and I grew up watching politicians from the two parties work together and compromise. Colorado has a big urban bloc of voters and a lot of rural voters. I saw early on that there are, of course, issues that we disagree on, but there are a lot more things that we see the same way.
USSYP: Where did you attend college? What were your academic and internship highlights?
Amanda: I graduated from George Mason University in May. My academic highlights were writing my thesis on primary systems and partisanship, working on research that linked both data science and government, and taking an economics class with Steve Pearlstein (Pulitzer prize-winning writer for the Washington Post). I also had the opportunity to study abroad at Oxford University and spend a summer learning Spanish in Granada.
My freshman year I was able to intern on the Hill for fellow USSYP alum then-Congressman Cory Gardner. I actually took off a semester in Fall 2014 to work as a field director back home in Colorado when Gardner was running for Senate, and we successfully elected him the second USSYP alum to the Senate. That was a great moment—because I believe in him so much as a person and I have this great connection with him through USSYP.
USSYP: Looking back on USSYP, what was most memorable?
Amanda: Looking back on USSYP, there are so many moments that stick out, and especially living in D.C. now, I am often reminded of great memories from that week. More than anything though, I think meeting then-Congressman Cory Gardner was inspiring because he talked about USSYP being his first time in D.C., his first time surrounded by so many people his age who were interested in the same things he was, and I was feeling exactly that way. That was the moment when I thought, “Wow, I can really become someone in Washington, D.C. I am going to make a change here.”
USSYP: How did you become involved in the United States Senate Youth Alumni Association (USSYAA)?
Amanda: Going to school near D.C. in Fairfax, Virginia, it was important to me to attend the annual reunions (and host my fellow classmates who came into town). Last year, I met the incoming USSYAA President, Colonel Michael Gonzales and had a great discussion with him about professional development and where he saw the USSYAA going. A few months later he called to ask if I would be interested in serving on the board and I became the secretary. It’s a great way to keep connected with other alumni and arrange the events that keep us all coming back to D.C.
USSYP: What are you involved in outside of your work?
Amanda: Outside of work, I serve on the USSYAA board and as a member of the George Mason University young alumni program, Golden Quill Society. I also play soccer, run, and do yoga. I try to donate blood once a month and I am involved in organ donation awareness because it’s an issue close to my heart.
USSYP: We love hearing about USSYP reunions. Do you have any favorite anecdotes of reuniting with fellow delegates since the program?
Amanda: To this day, my fellow 2012 USSYP classmates are some of my best friends. Quite a few of us went to school in the D.C. area, but now that many of us have graduated, there’s about 15 of us who live here, and I’ve been working to organize monthly happy hours so we can meet up and talk about what everyone is up to, reminisce about our Washington Week and discuss current events.
I’ve been lucky enough to visit lots of my classmates and even spent 24 hours in Berlin with one while we were both studying abroad! We may have only spent one week together, but Washington Week was an experience that only the people who were there with me fully understand. It played a huge role in who I am today.
Photos courtesy of Amanda Patarino