Founder and Executive Director New York State Senate Democratic Internship Program
The Honorary Rising Star Award is presented to an outstanding Latino/a for their accomplishments and achievements. The award seeks to recognize Hispanics who are leaders in their communities and have dedicated their lives to empowering Latino youth by encouraging positive change through their active participation and involvement.
The Honorary Rising Star Award recognizes amazing Latinos/as who serve as role models to us all and who remind us that with dedication and hard work we can achieve our dreams no matter where we came from or how limited our resources.
Zairita Peñaherrera is the Founder and Executive Director of the New York State Senate Democratic Internship Program.
Ms. Peñaherrera was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador. In Ecuador, her father was very active in the community, from small construction projects helping rebuild neighborhoods to advocating for fair Labor Rights in Guayaquil. Her Fathers’ examples inspired her with what one person could do to make a difference.
Remembering her own experience with discrimination growing up in the United States, Ms. Peñaherrera works to help others who go through similar challenges. While serving as the Director of Human Resources in 2007 at the New York Senate Democratic Conference, she saw a lack of diversity within state government interns. She envisioned an internship program that would provide opportunities to those that had no advocate.
Ms. Peñaherrera established the program in 2011, and as of 2016, the New York State Senate program has placed 212 interns. These interns are from New York, across the country and around the world. She created a program that supports personal enrichment, meaningful relationships and self-empowerment, all the while deepening the interns’ educational experiences. Her program is unique in that it looks at the individual student on a case-by-case basis while providing them the opportunity to participate in the legislature.
Her goal is to help each intern return to their community with the hope that they can be part of a better future. With a desire to participate in the democratic process, the interns will bring new generations to responsible government service.
Ms. Peñaherrera believes that life provides us with many contrasting experiences to learn from, so that we can identify who we want to be. She believes that however we help others; we leave a lasting impact of ourselves on this world.
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