Patricia Ordaz fights for immigrants such as herself as a legislative aide to U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris.
The video of the Zoom call in which former Vice President Joe Biden asks U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) to be his running mate in the 2020 presidential election still makes Patricia Ordaz emotional.
“I don’t think you really sit down to think about what it means to be the first of something,” she said, referring to Harris’ becoming the first woman of color nominated for national office by a major political party. “It definitely opens eyes, especially for other women and people of color, to nurture their ambitions and see someone like them in a position of power.”
The 26-year-old Metropolitan State University of Denver alumna is a legislative aide for Harris. It’s her job to monitor national and regional developments to help determine the best strategic response to achieve the junior senator from California’s priorities for homeland security, the judiciary and immigration reform. Ordaz also serves on the board of the Congressional Hispanic Staff Association.
Though her work is intentionally separate from campaign operations, Harris’ nomination is no less inspiring, she said.
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“At a time when so many are worried about their communities, their families and their own lives, it’s something that gives you a little bit of hope,” she said.
Ordaz’s ascent to a position in Harris’ office itself represents a culmination of a series of firsts. Her parents brought Ordaz to Colorado from Mexico when she was 6, and she was a first-generation college student at MSU Denver in 2014 when she finally received her green card. Before finishing her degree in political science in 2015, Ordaz served as president of the Student Government Assembly, helping to push through the 2013 Colorado Advancing Students for a Stronger Economy Tomorrow (ASSET) bill, which extended in-state college tuition to qualified undocumented Colorado high school graduates.
MSU Denver provided an inclusive space where she felt valued as a Latinx student, Ordaz said.
“I took that perspective to heart and brought it here,” she said.
“Here” is the U.S. Capitol, which she first reached as an intern in the office of U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), a position she landed with the assistance of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s internship program and her political-science professors at MSU Denver.
She was accepted for the internship with two classes left to graduate, she recalled. Then Robert Preuhs, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Political Science, stepped in to work with her and make sure she could take the job and finish her degree.
“He said, ‘That sounds like a great opportunity; let’s figure out how to get you to D.C. and still help you graduate,’” Ordaz said. “Without that flexibility, I don’t think I’d be here where I am today.”