MERCED -- UC Merced will send two students to the Republican and Democratic parties' national conventions.
Baltazar Cornejo, a senior majoring in political science, will attend the Republican convention in Tampa, Fla. Chelsea Coe, a senior majoring in cognitive science with a minor in political science, will go to the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C.
The students will be able to take part in the conventions through an internship program offered by The Washington Center.
Participation in the program is funded by the UC Merced Student Affairs Division and the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts. It costs about $7,000, said Brenda Ortiz, spokeswoman for UC Merced. That doesn't include travel and food.
Cornejo has been involved with the local Republican Party in Merced and is active on the College Republican Club at UC Merced. He said grass-roots activism is the way to influence the direction of the party.
"We are the future of the country," he said.
He never thought he would be able to attend a national convention. He said it will be a life-changing experience because he will get to see how the process works and will interact with party leaders.
Cornejo also is looking forward to seeing how the party platform is decided, especially since there's been a lot of debate as to what it will be.
Coe said when she first heard about the possibility of going to the Democratic National Convention she thought it "sounded like an amazing opportunity."
"It's a huge thing to see it firsthand," she said. "Just to see how it works."
The students will attend seminars before the conventions to learn more about the events. They will then be assigned a job during the conventions.
Coe will be working in an administrative role for Bloomberg News from New York. She said she's interested in learning more about the media's role at the convention and what kind of events they find to be more important.
She plans to write a blog about her experience at the event to keep other UC Merced students informed. "Politics is definitely something I'm interested in," she said,
Both students said they hope to make connections that can ultimately help them land a job.
Nathan Monroe, a political science associate professor at UC Merced, said students went through a competitive application process that he helped put together. A total of 10 applied for the two slots.
Monroe said he was proud of the effort and willingness by UC Merced Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Jane Lawrence and Mark S. Aldenderfer, dean of the social sciences school, to find room in their budgets to be able to fund the effort, especially with funding so limited.
He said Cornejo and Coe will represent UC Merced well, which is an important step to broaden people's awareness of the university.
For the students, it's going to be an invaluable experience because they will get to meet people who are active on a national level and will get to see the behind-the-scene process of an event that only comes around every four years, Monroe said.
"The level of insight that those students are going to get just by observing is going to be terrific," he said.
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482, or firstname.lastname@example.org.