Nathaly Arriola, 23, is the press secretary for Spanish media in Senate majority leader Harry Reid’s Washingto, D.C. office on Capitol Hill. “After college,” Nathaly said, “I was granted a fellowship to come to DC with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, towards the culmination of my fellowship, I was offered a permanent position with Senator Reid.”
Nathaly attended Mount Eden High School in Hayward, CA, and was “a quiet kid” until she joined the Puente Project – an academic preparation program – and she spoke on behalf of Puente in front of the school board. “I became very politicized,” Nathaly said. “I started to learn about budget cuts and funding. And then I started getting more and more politically involved.”
Nathaly then joined different community organizations and learned about the issues surrounding education and immigration. “This was back when the 2005 and 2006 marches and walkouts were happening,” she said. “I did a lot when it came to youth and community organizing, it was what kept me going and interested my in studies and my communities future. Sitting back and watching it happen was not an option.”
The way to politicization, and finally, Capitol Hill, was a long and interesting journey for this young woman who was born in Peru, and came to the United States at the age of 10, before growing up in Hayward and graduating from UC-Santa Barbara as a political science major.
Nathaly was separated from her family for 3 years when her parents moved from Peru to look for work in the U. S. “That was a very difficult experience,” she said, “not only because I missed them, but because I felt I had the responsabiltiy had to raise my little brother all by myself,. I never quite had the experience of being a kid, because my family needed me to play the role of a mother.”
Nathaly’s father works as a pizza delivery man, and her mother wakes up at 3 a.m. each day for work. “Although we were able to purchase a home, and have worked hard to be financially stable, pretty much my family’s situation hasn’t changed much financially since I was a kid,” Nathaly said, “which is disappointing, although now I’m starting to be able to help out more.” Nathaly sends a few hundred dollars home every month, even though she “isn’t making much money as a public servant,” and she’s still paying off school loans.
Said Nathaly, “My parents were only able to visit me twice in college in 4 years, when they dropped me off, and when I graduated, because of our financial situation.”
Nathaly still talks with her parents 3 or 4 times each day, and has done so ever since she left for college. “I’m thankful to be able to support myself and to at least help my parents out a little bit,” she said. “I wouldn’t be anywhere without them.”
But politics and her parents weren’t the only major influences in Nathaly’s life. “Summer Search helped me get out of my comfort zone and helped me gain trust in people,” Nathaly said. “Really a huge, huge thing I had to get over as a person was learning how to ask for help, and realizing that people want to help. Coming in as an immigrant, and as a young person, and having to take care of my family, asking for help was never an option. It was a struggle for my Summer Search mentor, but Summer Search got through to me and helped me to open up and ask for help. It was very simple, but it wasn’t part of my vocabulary or my way of being until Summer Search helped change that part of me. Its interesting that now, when talking to youth, the advice I always give is simple, ask for help.”
Nathaly’s travel opportunities through Summer Search were also very eye-opening for her. She went to Thailand for her second trip. “I chose a country where I would be completely lost, and where I would have to start from scratch,” she said, adventurously. “I didn’t want to go to Latin America or Europe, I just wanted to be lost. Because although I was very political and very open politically, when it came to me personally, I was very shy, and hesitant to step into circles where I didn’t feel comfortable and where I couldn’t connect. I needed that extra push, and going to Thailand helped that. ”
Nathaly’s first trip was an Outward Bound excursion to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. “To this day I feel like the happiest moment of my life, the moment where I felt true happiness, was thanks to Summer Search. In the Rocky Mountains, I jumped into a river after not taking a shower for like a week. And that was it. The best moment of my life. It was experiences like that that truly pushed me, and helped me get out of my comfort zone. I would have never had that kind of opportunity without Summer Search.”