Rossana Huang APAPA-LAC, Christine Kagarise, State Department, Ivonne Guzman, Consul General of Ecuador in Los Angeles, Orla Keane Consul General of Ireland in Los Angeles, Ambassador Marcela Celorio Consul General of Mexico. (Left to Right)

On November 2, 2019, the Federal Executive Boards – Diversity and Inclusion Group, and the Young Government Leaders held its Annual Young Leaders in Government Conference at the East Los Angeles College at Corporate Center Campus. This event was co-sponsored by the East Los College Foundation and the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association – Los Angeles Chapter (APAPA-LAC). The event was attended by 60 members of the community ranging from high school students to young professionals. The event offered insights into the workings of federalism and the various levels of government that serve the community.

In the first session, field representatives from various elected officials gave insights into working for the legislative branch of the government. Becky Cheng, District Director for Congresswoman Judy Chu, served as a moderator. The distinguished panelists included Serapia Kim, Field Representative from Assemblyman Miguel Santiago’s Office; Taylor Quan, Staff Assistant from California State Senator Ling Ling Chang’s Office; David Kim, District Representative from State Senator Anthony J. Portantino’s Office; and Henry Lo, Field Representative from Assemblyman Ed Chau’s Office. The field deputies answered questions about how they entered into public service and gave pointers in how to land a job for an elected official. As field representatives, many face challenges in navigating the government when helping their constituents. This is one of the reasons why there was a consensus on the importance of networking. The emphasis was on collaboration and not conflict when working with people with different points of view.

During the second session federal managers and executives from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) spoke about working for a federal agency at the Executive branch. Federal agencies are very unique in that it is very specialized in a particular set of laws they administer. Most executive agencies are regulatory or law enforcement. All panelists are experts in their field and spoke about how they got into their line of work. For example, Christine Connolly, a Securities Compliance Examiner from the SEC, said that she got into her agency to help protect people such as her parents who worked tirelessly to earn a pension that would support them during their senior years. Efrain Rodriguez, FBI Agent, felt a duty to country and community when he joined the FBI after 9/11. Since the federal government is not only in Washington D.C., with over 275 agencies alone in Southern California there are many opportunities for serving your community regardless of your background. Nicole St. Germain, Outreach & Education Coordinator/Public Relations Manager at EEOC, talked about how the EEOC found innovative ways to address human trafficking through the use of violations of civil rights laws. Cecelia Valentine, Field Attorney at NLRB, addressed the topic of how to get into the federal government through internships and networking events and persistence.

Finally, the event wrapped up with the panel discussion led by the State Department and Women Consul Generals from Ecuador, Ireland, and Mexico. The panelist spoke about the challenges facing Foreign Service employees but also how rewarding it can be. We learned that these leaders in diplomacy came from diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Consul General of Ireland Orla Keane spoke about the excitement of opening a consulate on behalf of her country in Los Angeles. Ambassador Marcela Celorio of Mexico spoke about her various assignments and how many of her colleagues experience PTSD when assigned to dangerous areas of the world. Consul General of Ecuador Ivonne Guzman talked about her experience as a journalist and how that prepared her when President Lenin Moreno of Ecuador appointed her to consul general. Balancing work life and personal life was also a challenge for those in the Foreign Service as they often move from one location to another. The rewards however far outweigh the sacrifices the brave men and women of the Foreign Service must face every day.

The event concluded with a networking lunch for attendees to have a rare opportunity to network with diplomats, legislative staff members, and federal leaders. Attendees expressed great admiration for the panelists and the diversity they bring to the government as well as their service to the unique needs of the community.