Senior takes on Kamala Harris senatorial internship

Photo courtesy of Tiana Lyew

When news first broke about the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last February, Tiana Lyew, who grew up in Coral Springs, Fla. was crushed. 

“It was terrible — one of the worst days of my life,” said Lyew, a senior majoring in public relations. “I walked home and cried.” 

While Lyew was always interested in politics, this personal tragedy motivated her to become more involved in the political process. Lyew said that after the shooting in Parkland, she knew she could not remain complacent about political issues.

“I don’t have the privilege of ignoring these issues anymore,” Lyew said. “Now, absolutely every part of my life is affected by politics. I thought it was important, so I decided to go into politics after that officially.”

This summer, Lyew is interning at the office of U.S. Senator Kamala Harris. Harris was elected to serve as California’s senator in 2016, following six years of service as California’s Attorney General. Today, Harris is a high-profile 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. While the Senator’s political career began in her hometown of Oakland, Calif., Lyew’s story began over 3000 miles away. 

Lyew was born in Jamaica to her parents, Dave Lyew and Moya Lopez-Lyew, where Harris’ father also grew up. The couple moved to the United States shortly after Tiana was born. Growing up, Lyew especially looked up to her mother as role model.

Daily Trojan file photo

“She’s really hard-working and I’ve always been inspired by her,” Lyew said. “I think I got my work ethic and my compassion for other people from her.” 

By the time Lyew was a junior in high school, she knew she wanted to attend USC. Lyew said she chose to study at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism because of its unparalleled reputation and academic rigor.

After a summer internship at the Los Angeles office of Paul Hastings LLP, an international law firm, Lyew accepted an opportunity to serve as a press intern for the Office of California Attorney General Xavier Beccera. 

At Beccera’s office, Lyew drafted speeches and press releases to represent state and immigrant community’s concerns in California. She said her upbringing in an immigrant household was crucial toward her developing the ability to effectively communicate the community’s needs.

“I think that understanding that immigrants are so integral to this country and that they do pay taxes and that they contribute to society in incredible ways … does absolute wonders in helping these communities” Lyew said. 

After the fall internship, Lyew used the latter half of her junior year to participate in the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences Washington D.C. program. The program allowed Lyew to take classes in the evening while pursuing a full-time press internship at the office of U.S. Senator Jon Tester.

As part of the internship, Lyew conducted correspondence with Tester’s constituents, learning how to communicate with people she strongly disagreed with over hot button issues such as gun control and abortion. 

“I think it’s extremely important for young people to participate in politics, especially for the future of the Democratic Party,” Lyew said. “I definitely believe that the reason for most of the success in the 2018 midterm elections is that young people were finally motivated to go out and vote. But — regardless of party — it’s important for young people to feel as if our ideas and preferred policies are listened to as well. It affects our future more than anyone else’s.”

Director of Graduate Admissions at Annenberg Valerie Friday Jones, who has worked with Lyew, said she is excited to see what is in store for Lyew’s future. 

“She has balanced academic excellence, extracurricular activities and a part-time job with aplomb, all of which will serve her well in Senator Harris’ office,” Jones said. 

Lyew said she is also currently considering working for a 2020 presidential campaign. After graduating, the senior hopes to attend law school and ultimately pursue a career in public service.