Tallahassee Internship Gives In-Depth Picture of Florida Politics

Jessica Caruso

Jessica Caruso was unsure what she would find when she headed to Tallahassee this spring for a legislative internship, but that uncertainty quickly disappeared. Now with the experience as a UCF Legislative Scholar, Caruso has returned home more passionate about politics than ever before.

“A lot of people worry that when they take on an internship, they won’t be doing anything too important or hands on,” said Caruso. “However, this internship is as hands on as you can get. I felt that I was actually able to make a difference, especially under Senator Stewart.”

Upon arriving in Tallahassee, Caruso matched to Senator Linda Stewart based on academic interests and personal chemistry. Originally from a small town in Illinois, Caruso believes strongly in environmental and agricultural regulations and development.

“I love everything about the outdoors,” said Caruso. “I took that home grown feeling and passion for agriculture and integrated it into the internship. Senator Stewart was very supportive and a great advocate for Florida’s environment. Through our match, we were able to bounce ideas off of one another and most importantly, learn from each other.”

Caruso assisted Stewart — a Democrat representing the 13th District, which includes northeast and central Orange County — on a climate change resolution bill that aims to bring awareness to the important role that resiliency and infrastructure play in fortifying the state of Florida.

Senate Bill 1572 expresses the Legislature’s support for the adoption of policies that will prepare Florida for environmental and economic impact of climate change.

“Senator Stewart met with three different committees to talk about the importance of this bill,” said Caruso. “When I was being matched to her office, they took my knowledge and passion for the environment and had me work under a senator who is highly supportive of these ideas.”

While the internship gave Caruso everything she wanted to strengthen her political ambitions, there was a also an unexpected opportunity to discover coffee.

“I’ve never had coffee before this experience,” said Caruso. “During Session, they serve cafecitos and I wanted to learn how to make it so that I could serve it and interact with the senators because it’s a great way to spark conversation.”

When she found out that there was an annual cafecito competition judged on best taste, Caruso knew that she was in it to win it.

“The competition came down to a cafecito made by me and my good friend who is also part of the program,” said Caruso. “My cafecito won and during Session, Senator Stewart stood up and recognized me as the winner in front of everyone. It was most definitely a highlight.”

Caruso will continue her undergraduate studies in political science and carries with her the lessons learned from her internship.

“I am so happy to be in my major of political science at UCF,” said Caruso. “This program was competitive and a lot of work, but it was completely worth it. I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.”



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