In hackneyed movies about kids making their first trip to Washington, there is often an unbelievable climax, where the President himself makes an unexpected entry.
But Julia Alvarez, a 17-year-old Marina High School graduate from Huntington Beach, said she found herself in that remarkable situation earlier this week.
"We were all in this room at the Old Executive Office Building," she recalled. "There were some very important people there, including the secretary of labor and the secretary of education, talking to us. And I was thinking, it'd really be nice if we could see the President, too.
"Then they suddenly cleared off the stage and put the presidential seal on display. A voice said: 'Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.' And President Reagan came in, and later he let the kids surround him, and he signed autographs. I have his autograph on a slip of paper."
Alvarez's meeting with Reagan is one of many thrills she said she has had since becoming one of 12 teen-agers across the nation to win a summer internship on Capitol Hill from the nonprofit Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.
Alvarez arrived in Washington on June 21, shortly after graduating from Marina High. She was assigned to the staff of Rep. Edward R. Roybal (D-Los Angeles). "I help answer the constituent mail, and I type and file, and answer the phones and run errands," she said.
In between the office work, she and the other 11 interns have been getting some rare insights into official Washington.
"One thing that was very interesting was getting to sit in on a Judiciary Committee hearing," Alvarez said. "I was able to hear the congressmen make their arguments for a bill."
Alvarez will be a congressional intern until July 31, when she will return to California to prepare for her freshman year at UCLA.
Oscar Guarderas, a spokesman for the Hispanic Caucus Institute, said that Alvarez's high academic performance and extracurricular activities won her the internship. "We were especially impressed with all the community service hours she's put in," Guarderas said.