Week 4: Interns Settling In, Internships Taking Off

By: Ojas Chitnis

When I was asked to write the blog post for this week, I was astounded by how hard it was. The most remarkable thing about this week was how unremarkable it seemed.

This week was when I first realized that my internship had become normal to me. I was finally settling into my new work environment. I work in a relatively small office, the Office of Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak in Edison, however there was still a learning curve at the beginning. Through my experiences over the past three weeks, the internship has begun to feel less foreign and more approachable.

Throughout the past week, I have been working with my fellow interns in the office to finalize bill sponsorships, research legislation, and reach out to constituents. This week provided a great leadership experience, as the interns were the ones running the office. Our Legislative Director, Sam Berzok, who is the only staff in the office the whole day, was enjoying a vacation in the Caribbean, leaving all the responsibility to us. We prepared a summer newsletter for the Assemblyman and cleaned up his computer, making sure that when the legislative session opened, the Assemblyman would be able to focus on the issues important his constituents.

We were also introduced to Jill Yu, one of the key leaders of the antibullying organization ActToChange. All of the fellows are working on a capstone project, supervised by Ms. Yu, that we will be proud to show you in the future. Ms. Yu has provided us with a number of tools which youth can use to stop bullying in their communities. This is increasingly important, as bullying against Asian Americans is becoming increasingly prevalent. It is the responsibility 

At the speakership series on Saturday, it was great to hear from several political leaders, who spoke to us about how we can get involved in political campaigns. The speakers included:

  • Shariq Ahmad, Edison Democratic Municipal Chair/ Chief of Staff to Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak 

  • Al Barlas, Essex County Republican Committee Chairman/ Former Chief of Staff to Senator Kevin O’Toole 

  • David Brown, Monmouth County Democratic Chairman

  • Missy Balmir, Director of African-American Outreach - Bob Menendez for Senate 

  • Mohammed Hameeduddin, Mayor – Teaneck

Each speaker provided great insight into how they first became involved in New Jersey politics and how we, as youth leaders, can make an impact on campaigns in our local communities. It was especially good to hear their encouraging words, as they inspired us to take up a more active role in politics.

When I first found out that I was going to be a Fellow in the New Jersey Leadership Program, I had not worked extensively in politics. My previous work had focused more on community service and social action. The internship and working with my fellow’s cohort has given me invaluable experience, which has pushed me to get more involved with politics on a local level.

My fascination with government has always been how government can be used to help its constituents. It has been a great pleasure of mine to work on constituent cases and outreach. Recently, the Assemblyman’s office has been working with other agencies to see how the South River water situation can be handled. This, among other cases, is why I have enjoyed working in the Assemblyman’s office so much.

My experiences have been echoed by the entire fellow’s class. For many of us, this is our first work experience. The fellowship has made me much more comfortable working in an office and has given me insight into the political process.

The lessons that I have learned through this internship have reinforced my drive to make a difference in my community and has given me an avenue to do so. I so grateful to Amit and the entire NJLP team for the opportunities that they have provided me and my fellows cohort. It’s hard to think that our internships are more than halfway completed. Nonetheless, I am grateful for the wonderful experiences that will shape my actions going forward. 

In the words of acclaimed American author Ray Bradbury, “Life is trying things to see if they work”. This internship, like life, has been about trying new things, leading to all the lessons that I have learned over the past few weeks. It has been a great experience, which will surely stick with me for the rest of my life.