Andrew Regalado ’20 grew up in Chino Hills, California, determined to be a public servant. “I have always been passionate about making a difference,” he says. When it was time to explore college options, he knew he wanted to venture beyond his Southern California roots and be part of a geographically diverse student body. Syracuse University drew his interest.
Regalado contacted Syracuse University Los Angeles and learned about the hands-on learning offered through the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. He was inspired to be Orange without ever visiting campus. Syracuse University’s Southern California Alumni Club saw his potential and awarded him a scholarship, instilling a confidence in him that helped with his cross-country transition. “I will always remember my first step on campus as one that set me up for success for the four years ahead,” he says.
Inspired by Family
Moving across the country would be an extraordinary step for most first-year students, but Regalado’s family has always driven him to be exceptional. A first-generation American citizen, he is the youngest brother in a family of six. “I’m grateful to be living my parents’ American dream. I definitely appreciate all the sacrifices that they made to get me here,” he says. He’s also a member of a larger-than-life extended family, with a dozen aunts and uncles and family gatherings that draw over 100 people. Even as a child, Regalado looked for ways he could set himself apart and make his family proud. A talented dancer, he turned professional at age 8 after he convinced his mother to bring him to an open casting call. “When people ask about the first time I tried making money, I describe that casting call,” he says.
On his mother’s advice, Regalado created his first resume before he entered the fourth grade. He auditioned and traveled to dance conventions all over the country. Being a professional dancer taught him the value of learning through experience, he says. “No matter your age, if you’re on a set in Hollywood, you need to be a professional, and you need to be prepared to work.”
A New Chapter
While professional dancing helped Regalado earn money for his education, his interest in public service eventually won out. The sense of determination that had driven him to the entertainment industry also motivated him to leave his comfort zone for college. He wanted to attend a school that would challenge his preconceptions—one that could provide a new setting and the ability to apply his skills right away. He also wanted to surround himself with individuals who inspired him to be his best in the same way his family did.
Syracuse University’s academically accomplished student body and myriad hands-on learning opportunities immediately impressed him. His passion for public service led him to a dual major in political science and policy studies at the Maxwell School and the College of Arts and Sciences. As a student, he was able to design a comprehensive academic journey with professors and advisors that encompassed both theory and practice. The dual major perfectly combined his values and interests.
Learning to Lead in Our Nation’s Capital
Regalado got to work straightaway when he arrived on campus in 2016. He participated in OrangeSeeds, a first-year leadership empowerment program. Through the mentorship he received there, he learned about the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute and The Fund for American Studies—organizations that offer academic experiences and internship application resources where future leaders can define and strengthen their leadership ability. Through scholarships from that program, along with financial support from Syracuse University in DC and the DC Alumni Club, he spent his first summer working in the in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill as an intern for Ed Royce, the U.S. representative from his hometown congressional district. He split his time in 2018 between Albany, working as a legislative intern with the New York State Assembly, and Washington, where he was a policy research intern with the U.S. Senate.
Each internship challenged me to think differently, live in a new community and adapt to the unpredictable yet exciting life of a public servant.—Andrew Regalado ’20
In 2019, Regalado served as a junior Foreign Service officer at the U.S. Department of State and as an economic intern with the U.S. embassy in Madrid, Spain. “Each internship challenged me to think differently, live in a new community and adapt to the unpredictable yet exciting life of a public servant,” he says. “Working as a public servant has reinforced my calling to lead.”
Shortly after receiving his degree, Regalado was hired as a staff assistant, and he is now a legislative correspondent in the office of U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger from Illinois, where he has received his own set of credentials to the Rayburn building. Capitol Hill was eerily quiet on his first day in his new role—the office had been largely virtual since March 2020—but even so, the setting was familiar to him. He believes his experiences at Syracuse University prepared him to contend with a once-in-a-century pandemic. “I’m grateful for the experiences I had that led me up to this point, and I felt ready for that call to action to serve,” he says. In addition to his official duties managing correspondence and monitoring legislative processes, he also works as grassroots director for Rep. Kinzinger’s national initiative, Country First.
Coming Full Circle
Since graduating Regalado has been paying it forward and supporting students like himself. “Since moving to our nation’s capital, it has been rewarding to mentor SU students also interested in public service and to provide advice throughout their internship search,” he says. As the regional co-chair of the Alumni Club of Washington, D.C., he continues to plan programs to bring alumni and students in the region together, like the Orange Connections: Mentorship program he created. He’s also thankful for the opportunity to speak on Maxwell school career panels and discussions. To remain connected to the campus community, Regalado serves on the Generation Orange Leadership Council and leads an initiative for the Hendricks Chapel Food Pantry that recruited nearly 200 donors and raised over $9,000.
Since moving to our nation’s capital, it has been rewarding to mentor SU students also interested in public service and to provide advice throughout their internship search.—Andrew Regalado ’20
Regalado admits that if someone had told him he’d be working on Capitol Hill and contributing to a national movement as a grassroots director his first year into his career, he wouldn’t have believed it. “The stars aligned to allow me to work for someone like Congressman Adam Kinzinger. The congressman is someone I look up to and respect wholeheartedly,” says Regalado. “I’m grateful, as a son of immigrants, that my parents can say their son is working in the federal government for a visionary leader bettering things for communities like ours throughout America.”
His new role is another step toward becoming the public servant he always wanted to be. “I always viewed myself as someone who could one day be a leader, and over time that’s why I fell in love with getting involved and the concept of service,” he says.
This story was updated on August 30, 2021.
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