Categorized | Featured, Health

Masunaga takes on Washington, D.C.

(Photo courtesy of Colette Masunaga)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

Colette Masunaga, Konawaena High School Class of 2009, spent the last three months serving as a White House intern, working on outreach and recruitment projects.

In between her work duties and exploring the nation’s capitol, the University of California at Davis alumni and aspiring attorney found some time to answer some questions for exclusively for Hawaii 24/7.

— Where have you been assigned as a White House Intern? List a few job duties, tasks, and responsibilities you have you been given.

I am in the Presidential Personnel Office, working with the Outreach and Recruitment Team. The Presidential Personnel Office interns gain experience interviewing, learn tools and techniques to conduct interviews, work in teams, and learn how to craft an effective resume and develop a personal narrative. Interns work with staff members to conduct outreach to potential candidates, track progress within federal departments and agencies, and conduct research. Presidential Personnel Office interns build an understanding of what it takes to be a successful and effective employee and colleague in the federal workforce with skills that can be used in their future endeavors.

— What life experiences do you have that has been helpful as a White House Intern?

My parents (Margaret and Gail) raised me to be humble, hardworking, and grateful for all that we have in life. As a White House Intern, those values have guided me through my experiences here.

— What D.C. job did you like more, being a White House Intern or a U.S. Senate Page, and why? Were they paid positions?

There is not one position that I like more than the other. I believe that I have been truly blessed with the opportunity to serve the late Sen. Daniel Inouye as his Senate Page back in 2008 and to be a White House Intern now. Regardless of whether they are paid positions or not, it is an honor to serve one’s country and president in any capacity.

— What can you let us about your contact or experience with Sen. Hirono, Sen. Schatz, Rep. Hanabusa, and Rep. Gabbard?

I personally have not met the whole Hawaii delegation, but every single one of our Representatives and Senators serve with pride, dignity and honor. They are all outstanding individuals who deserve respect.

— What about being a fourth generation Japanese American whose grandparents were interned during WWII?

My grandfather’s story as a Japanese American who was unjustly incarcerated during WWII in Tule Lake is a very personal one for my family. He witnessed horrific things and for a period of time was a man without a country, despite being born and raised in California. I think in his life after the war, he wanted to prove how American he was and worked hard to provide for his wife and children. His life is a constant reminder of the precious nature of citizenship, belonging, and the dangers of policy that is executed rashly, without serious consideration of potential negative ramifications.

Colette Masunaga visits with U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez at his Washington, D.C. office. (Photo courtesy of Labor Secretary’s Office)

— Do you have a mentor who has helped you in your interest in public service?

I have been blessed with a number of mentors who have been very active in guiding me through my high school, undergraduate, and professional career. All of whom have a strong conviction in serving the communities which they came from.

— As a 2009 graduate of Konawaena High School in Kealakekua, is there any public school teacher who influenced you?

My education at Konawaena would not have been the same if it weren’t for a number of teachers who have inspired and challenged me to do my very best academically. In middle school I had several fantastic teachers of whom I still keep in touch with, Ms. Georgia Goeas and Mrs. JoAnn Iwane. They have been my greatest fans in encouraging me to not limit myself at home and strive to exceed all expectations.

— As a 2013 graduate from the University of California at Davis in International Relations with a minor in Asian American Studies, what is your dream job?

I have aspirations of one day going to law school and working as a civil rights attorney in Hawaii. I want to focus on the advancement of Native Hawaiians and work with members of my community in providing a safer, drug free environment in Hawaii.

— What type of events have you attended at the White House?

The White House has a number of fantastic events that are open to the public. One of them that I attend was the White House Fall Garden Tour. It is a great way to roam around the South Lawn of the White House, view the rose garden, kitchen garden and all the trees that have been planted during previous administrations. The First Lady even has a papaya tree in her garden.

— Who have you met that inspired you and why?

I met Billy Jean King when she came to an event at the White House to celebrate the 40th year anniversary of the “Battle of the Sexes” match against Bobby Riggs. Ms. King is beyond fabulous and has such a great attitude. She is full of positivity and extremely humble. What I am most proud of is that I met a woman who advocated on behalf of women and the LGBT community, but who also worked alongside the late Congresswoman Pasty Mink from Hawaii. Congresswoman Patsy Mink is someone who I will forever hold dear to my heart and strive to be like.

— What advice would you give to other Big Island students on how to be a White House Intern?

I do not believe that one should strive to achieve a particular position. It is more about what one is passionate about when it comes to serving others and making a difference in their own community. I think that if a person has that passion and has demonstrated a commitment to that cause, it will reflect through any resume. I would advise students from my hometown to work hard, be humble, and remember where you came from.

Colette Masunaga enjoys some wintery Washington, D.C. weather outside the White House. (Photo courtesy of Colette Masunaga)

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