Political Science major Michelle Flores ’22 always wanted to work in the Texas State Capitol, and in spring 2021 she got her chance when St. Edward’s awarded her a Texas Legislative Fellowship.
The scholarship enabled her to work full-time in the office of State Senator Cesar Blanco, who represents her hometown of El Paso. The experience helped confirm that, one day, she wants to be the one holding office.
What were your main duties in State Senator Blanco’s office?
I was a legislative aide, focusing on bills moving through the committees on Jurisprudence, Nominations and Public Education. I took a lot of phone and Zoom calls with school representatives to hear their concerns. It was a lot of fun to be part of conversations about, for example, enhancing the dual-language learning system. And I got to suggest what I thought might improve the legislation we were working on. I was at the Capitol from 9 to 5 every day, and it felt like a glimpse of the real world. I was actually applying what I had learned in the classroom.
What’s one of your takeaways from working the legislative session?
As a constituent, I had never reached out to one of my elected officials because of the perception they’re too busy and kind of untouchable. But they’re representing you, and they want to hear from you. A simple phone call to an office can get your concerns heard and get things moving in your favor. It’s less complicated than people would think.
What should you say when you call or email elected officials?
Remember that the person you’re calling may not be familiar with your experience, so give a little bit of context or background. For instance, we got a lot of phone calls about inefficiencies at Covid testing hubs in the district. If that’s your struggle, you don’t have to go into all the details, but you can explain that you had a hard time booking a Covid test and suggest how we could improve the system. A specific, constructive call to action is important. It’s good to express your concerns to your elected officials because they have the power to improve the situation not only for you but also for other people.
Why do you want to run for office?
Two reasons. First, it shows other young women like me that it’s possible. Especially as a first-generation Mexican American woman, there’s not a lot of guidance about how to fill those spaces or make change. The other reason is I’ve fallen in love with the process of hearing constituents’ stories, learning from them, and using them to help create effective change. This is the place where I feel most at home and where I feel like I can make the biggest difference.
What’s your advice for future college students?
Remember that when you commit to attend an academic institution, that institution is committing to you as well. You’re investing your time and money in your education, but they’re also investing in you – they opened their doors to you, so make sure you take advantage of all the resources the school offers. The beauty of St. Ed’s is that there are people here who want to see you grow and accomplish your goals, and that community is absolutely priceless to me.
Interview by Robyn Ross
Photography & Video by Chelsea Purgahn