by Brittany Reyes
The legislature is a small world. A month ago, I ran into a high school classmate who is a Scheduler in a representative’s’ office. Last week, I ran into a college colleague that worked in the Office of the Governor and now works at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Both of these incidents came with the casual, but curious question: what are you doing at the Capitol? My friends were surprised to see me in this intense political environment because my indicated path – when going to school with both individuals – was to be a psychologist. I spent much of my time in high school and college professing my dream of working with individuals to help provide service to their unique mental and behavioral concerns. So, I could understand their inquiry to how I ended up here.
I was late into my college career when I discovered social work, or what social work truly is. My only idea of social work was based off of the social worker that helped my aunt and uncle adopt their 3 beautiful children. Although I loved the work of the social worker in adoption services, I had to satisfy my itch to work one-on-one with clients in a behavioral and mental health capacity. Therefore, I pursued on with the notion of psychology and pushed social work to the back of my mind.
Through the many service opportunities that my undergraduate university offered (rather, highly encouraged), I came to realize that I enjoyed working in the community and was inspired to learn about issues that needed attention and assistance, but were commonly overlooked. I started volunteering and interning for local non-profits and before I knew it, my passion was unintentionally rerouted. Social work was where I was meant to be. Therefore, my last year of undergrad was spent vigorously looking at social work graduate programs so that I could finally begin my dream work. At this point in time, however, I was very distant from the idea of working in policy. For one, I had yet to realize the intersection of policy and social work and two, the environment of policy was intimidating. But shortly into my social work career I learned the importance of policy and representation. Many minorities, myself included, are not represented in the makeup of the state legislature. This is a problem.
When the opportunity to participate in this program arose, I didn’t hesitate. I felt compelled to find a way to bring the slightest bit of representation to the Capitol. What I’ve found so far is a bit disheartening; there are far fewer Hispanic women in this field than I had hoped (although this is not completely surprising). However, instead of feeling hopeless that the demographics of the legislature will never change, I feel encouraged and inspired to ensure people begin to be appropriately represented. But I need your help! If you feel as though your beliefs and values, whether they are based on race, socioeconomic status, etc., aren’t represented, then consider becoming civically engaged. The future of Texas politics will continue to follow the same direction unless you and many others become a part of the political process to make sure your voices are heard. I know that this isn’t always easy, but don’t let stagnation deter you from progress. Your perseverance will be the reason that lawmakers work effectively on your behalf to defend your rights, values, and beliefs.