At the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF), we believe strongly in supporting future generations of the Italian American community. This is why we created the NIAF Congressional Fellowship; with it, we place outstanding Italian American college students, graduate students and recent graduates in the offices of members of the Italian American Congressional Delegation (IACD) on Capitol Hill to encourage and support the next generation of Italian American leadership.
Below, you’ll find the experience of Natalie Wulderk, one of our NIAF Congressional Fellows, and what she gained from her fellowship in American government.
Standing in the rotunda with my head tilted upwards to see the dome of the United States Capitol, I am astounded by the breathtaking fresco on the ceiling. Congress commissioned the Italian painter, Constantino Brumidi, to create the Apotheosis of Washington in 1865, which required him to be painting while suspended 180 feet in the air for 11 months until the project was complete. Brumidi’s masterpiece is by far my favorite and I cannot lead a tour of the Capitol without taking a moment to myself to look up and admire the detail, symbolism, and beauty of what lies in the heart of the United States Capitol. Not just as an American, but as an Italian American, I am reminded of my heritage and what Italians through the generations have contributed to the United States of America.
I am honored to have interned for Congressman Bill Pascrell Jr. As a chairman to the Italian American Caucus and the representative from the 9th District of New Jersey, Congressman Pascrell is a leader in the Italian American Community. During my internship, I had the opportunity to attend briefings recognizing the intimate cooperation for NATO operations and business ventures between the US and Italy today, as well as attend events appreciating the Italian American culture and their noteworthy contributions to the United States.
Furthermore, I was able to witness firsthand Congressman Pascrell’s values at work in his office. Congressman Pascrell says that his parents and his Italian-immigrant grandparents instilled in him the value of being a “bridge builder,” one who seeks to bring together diverse peoples in the community to make a better society. Being mindful of all of the constituents’ experiences and backgrounds who called the office, the staff and I treated them with dignity and respect. Constituents voices and opinions matter, which lead me to write briefing memorandums for Congressman Pascrell for legislation that his constituents supported.
The American fundamental value of diversity is carried forward by Congressman Pascrell and my Italian relatives who made the uncertain journey to a new country to make a better life for themselves and their family. It is alive in our consciences and continually advocated for in the work Congressman Pascrell and others are doing on Capitol Hill. Witnessing that effort and taking part of representing a diverse constituent base as an intern was an invaluable experience that I will hold dear for the rest of my life.
Elliott School of International Affairs
The George Washington University Class of 2018
NIAF is currently accepting applications for the 2018 NIAF Congressional Fellowship, taking place this fall. Deadline to apply is April 30, 2018. For more information, click here.