In this week’s blog, Blakley Scholar recipient Krystal Giraldes ’20 tells us about her impactful internship and overall experience as part of the USF in DC program. She previously interned last summer as a McCarthy Fellow in Sacramento.
I have been passionate about politics since middle school, when I noticed the partisan divide between my own parents. It became my own personal window into the conflicting theories and ideologies that all political arguments center themselves around, and it made the choice to come to USF and study Politics an easy one. USF’s professors and programs saw that passion in me and taught me how to channel it into the skills for creating lasting change. As my favorite professor from the Jewish Studies & Social Justice program (JSSJ), Oren Kroll-Zeldin, often says, “Power operates to maintain the status quo”. That is the reason I decided that Washington, D.C. was the place to be if I wanted to influence the status quo via the power structures of this nation.
I fell in love with politics because of all the complexity, and my D.C. experience only amplified that.
In my time in D.C., I’ve been working with the Middle East Institute (MEI) because of my interest in Middle Eastern human rights and Palestinian liberation sparked by the classes I’ve taken in the JSSJ minor. MEI is a think-tank dedicated specifically to obtaining and distributing knowledge about the Middle East and North Africa. I work with the Programs Department to put on events featuring authors, scholars, and all sorts of experts – exposing me to people and topics I may not have been able to experience at USF. In one such event, I got to meet a personal hero of mine, a Palestinian nonviolence activist named Ali Abu Awaad, whose work I was inspired by when we watched the documentary, “Encounter Point,” in one of my JSSJ classes at USF. You never expect to be face-to-face with your heroes, but USF in DC has done that for me.
I have also met both Ariel Gold and Medea Benjamin, co-founders of CODEPINK, whose work was one of my original inspirations to pursue a career in political advocacy. I met them at a protest they organized outside of the hotel where the Trump administration’s peace plan for Israel-Palestine was unveiled. Participating firsthand in a social movement that advocates for marginalized communities in the Middle East, instead of learning about it in a classroom was invigorating and inspiring—a perfect reminder of why I pushed myself to be in D.C. in the first place.
I expect to leave Washington, D.C. in April with even more questions than when I arrived. These questions will center around what comes next for me. Informed by my D.C. experience, the questions will be deeper, inquisitive questions about how to change the world instead of “what if?” and “where do I start?” I fell in love with politics because of all the complexity, and my D.C. experience only amplified that. It is a chaotic time to be involved in politics and I could not be more grateful that I get to experience this time “in the eye of that storm”. I can’t wait to keep learning from these experiences and to begin to change the world from here in D.C.