Growing up in a small Alaskan village, Charisse Arce always loved learning. Her quest for knowledge took her beyond her hometown - to college and law school - and helped her earn a prestigious Udall Foundation Native American Congressional Internship.
Arce is one of just 12 students throughout the country selected for the highly regarded internship program in Washington, D.C. The internship is known for placing students in extremely competitive positions in Senate and House offices, committees, Cabinet departments, and the White House, where they are able to observe government decision-making processes firsthand. Arce will work with the U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of the Solicitor, Division of Indian Affairs.
She is Aleut and Athabascan Indian from the village of Iliamna, a community of about 200 people. Few students from the village go to college, and she doesn't know of any who have been to law school.
She attended Seattle University for her undergraduate degree and was a two-time Academic All-American honoree for cross country and two-time selection for track and field. Some people have preconceived notions about Native Americans or Alaskans, she said, but she has always found Seattle, the university and the law school supportive.
"I was exposed to Seattle and I felt like the community was really accepting and nurturing of diversity," she said. "I was able to grow as a person. This community accepted things about myself I thought I needed to hide."
After college, she returned to Alaska, where she worked in Iliamna, Anchorage and Juneau. Working for the Legislature introduced her to public policy work that led her to law school. She volunteers at an after-school program for Native K–8 students in Seattle and is a member of the American Indian Law Journal at Seattle University School of Law.
Arce enjoys subsistence and commercial fishing with her family and participating in athletic events with her community. She's looking forward to learning how things work in Washington.
"I've never been exposed to the federal government before, so I'm really excited about that," she said.
The 12 Udall interns will complete an intensive, 10-week internship this summer. Special enrichment activities will provide opportunities to meet with key decision makers. Arce also will be part of the law school's Summer in D.C. Program, taking a course in Legislative Law and Policy and exploring the nation's capital with her fellow interns and other Seattle University law students placed with a variety of firms, companies, governmental agencies and public interest organizations.
The Udall Foundation is an independent federal agency established by Congress in 1992 to provide federally funded scholarships for college students intending to pursue careers related to the environment, as well as for American Indian students pursuing tribal public policy or healthcare careers.