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Talent Lab programs prepare students for real-world advocacy
Left to right: Zyannah Greaux, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Japheth Kariuki.

Talent Lab programs prepare students for real-world advocacy

March 30, 2021 at 12:00pm

Introducing advocacy to undergraduate students is yielding real results. Recently, two students who participated in FIU in DC programs went on to advocate directly to members of Congress.

Earlier this month, Zyannah Greaux—a criminal justice major, current Hamilton Scholar within FIU in Washington, D.C.’s Talent Lab—served as FIU’s delegation leader to a national “Lobby Weekend” focused on systemic racism and the militarization of policing, hosted by the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL).  

As delegation leader, she hosted a conversation, "Protecting Black Women," and recruited nine FIU students to participate in virtual visits to offices of Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott and Representative Carlos Gimenez (representing FL-26, which includes the Modesto A. Maidique Campus)  to express support for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (H.R. 1280) 

“We emphasized that we were urging for the specific provisions of banning chokeholds, banning no-knock warrants, reforming qualified immunity, limiting the 1033 program, as well as redefining the standard use of force by the police,” Greaux said. “It was a great experience filled with meeting so many people from around the nation.” 

This bill was introduced to the House of Representatives by Rep. Karen Bass (CA-37), whose office has been a regular stop during FIU’s annual DC Fly-In for students from the Fostering Panther Pride program, as she is the co-founder and chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth.

Japheth Kariuki, a finance major and former foster youth, first visited Bass’ office during the Fall 2019 iteration of the program, where he learned about and became a member of the National Foster Youth Institute (NFYI), where Rep. Bass serves on the board. As a member of the organization, he has been an outspoken advocate for child welfare issues, including meeting with legislators (most notably Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi), submitting comments on rules proposed by the Florida Department of Children and Families, and writing editorials such as this one published in Florida Today 

The DC Fly-In was the first time I considered anything in the areas of activism or advocacy,” Kariuki said. “As a finance major, I had only been thinking about business.” 

Both students’ advocacy experiences can be traced back to their participation in The Talent Lab, FIU in DC’s comprehensive program to ensure success for FIU students seeking the opportunity to make an impact on the world's greatest challenges through Fly-In Seminars, internships, and courses in the nation's capital.  

The Hamilton Scholars program is the premier student leadership experience for students of a wide cross-section of majors, including from the arts, social sciences and STEM fields, who are seeking to make an impact in the issue area about which they are most passionate. Selected scholars complete a paid internship, receive a scholarship, are assigned an alumni mentor, and take the Washington Seminar Honors College course as a group.  

Fly-in seminars are three-day experiential seminars focused on exploring how policies are made, and what career opportunities exist in the capital for students passionate about a variety of issues. Itineraries consist of engaging conversations and experiences with experts across government, academia and industry. Each fly-in includes an opportunity to draft policy solutions and to participate in advocacy meetings on Capitol Hill.

Students looking to follow in Greaux and Kariuki’s footsteps by applying for the Hamilton Scholars program (the Fall deadline is May 10) or future Fly-In Seminars can visit and contact Eric Feldman at to learn more.