Sonya, a personable and vivacious 16-year-old who is a participant in JCCA’s Bukharian Teen Lounge, an afterschool program helping immigrant teens integrate into American life while retaining their rich cultural heritage, hadn’t expected to have a summer internship in a government office. But life had other plans for her, and since she wanted experience working with community issues, she was eagerly recruited by the office of NY State Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, who has represented the district since 2005. “Assemblymen Hevesi’s office has consistently provided excellent opportunities for many interns who have learned about how the democratic process really works. For some of them, it has been a gateway to a new career,” says Manashe Khaimov, Director, Bukharian Youth Services.

“We’ve had interns from the Bukharian Teen Lounge for the past three years and they have all been exceptional,” says Lauren Capozzi, Hevesi Chief of Staff. Asked why Sonya was hired, Ms. Capozzi explains, “Sonya carried herself so well, had a very professional resume, and has such a great smile! She has proven herself smart and resourceful—we would definitely have her back.”

Elected officials’ offices are often frenetic and Sonya had to learn fast. “It’s a difficult job and you have to hit the ground running,” remarks Ms. Capozzi. “There’s a lot to learn, but Sonya caught on fast.” Sonya began with office filing, but soon graduated to answering constituent emails and phone calls, responding to their problems and concerns. “I definitely got better at writing, learning how to refine my thoughts and ideas. My teachers noticed the improvement, too. The summer was a very valuable experience,” she says. “I loved working with constituents. My favorite experience was with a nice, elderly woman who was worried by a variety of issues. I guessed from her accent that she might speak Russian, and when I began talking with her in that language, she understood and felt much better!”

According to Ms. Capozzi, “Sonya is a great individual. She’s very responsible, active in school and at home. She’s going far in life.” Sonya continues to be part of the Bukharian Teen Lounge and participates in its Young Bukharian Leadership Institute. JCCA is a great organization and does great work,” adds Ms. Capozzi.