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Hill Climbers: Comedy Toughens Staffer for Hill

For some people, coming to Capitol Hill is part of a clear career path. Not Amber Aviles.

“My résumé is not consistent,” said Aviles, a legislative assistant for Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.).

Her previous jobs include an internship in an emergency room, stints in voice-over acting and gigs in stand-up comedy.

When Aviles got to the University of California, Davis, she planned on going into pediatric medicine and declared a major in biology. While working on her biology degree, Aviles realized medicine was not her calling.

“Biology just wasn’t interesting anymore,” she said.

Instead, she focused on political science.

“I always had an inkling for politics,” she said, calling the subject a “second interest while at Davis.”

She graduated in 2002 with a degree in political science and a minor in biology.

Aviles went on to get a graduate degree in public policy from Pepperdine University, but not before taking a multiyear detour in the performing arts.

She was able to combine her interests in the arts and politics when she volunteered with Phantom Projects Theatre Group, which uses theater to teach middle and high school students about topics such as alcohol and drug abuse, discrimination and teen pregnancy.

She did similar work with the California Science Center, where she used theater to teach students about science.

While working at NBC Universal Studios, Aviles found work as a voice-over artist and extra actor and found time to pursue her interest in stand-up comedy. Working in acting and comedy, Aviles developed skills that she believes are helpful in her new career.

“Being able to speak in public and having the communication skills has definitely been beneficial,” she said.

She also looks back on the roles that she didn’t get as a learning experience.

“It’s built endurance and tough skin,” she explained.

After graduating from Pepperdine in April, Aviles joined Baca’s staff in May, building off two political internships, one of which was with then-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R). As Baca’s legislative assistant, Aviles deals with health, telecommunications and women’s issues.

Aviles compared the interaction of a film crew to the cooperation found on Capitol Hill.

“The whole team is coming together for this one purpose,” she said of her experiences on set.

“Working as a legislative assistant, you see it all come together,” she added. “It’s definitely a team, just like a TV show.”

Although she’s completely changed careers, Aviles hasn’t ruled out a return to voice-over acting.

“It’s a job that you can always do,” she said. “Your voice doesn’t really change.” She said she would consider taking it up again after she retires.

Other than that, Aviles isn’t sure what will be next.

“I know I’ll be in D.C.,” she said, but she added that she wants to eventually end up in her home state of California.

“But right now,” she said, “I think I need to learn about the bigger picture,” something she hopes to do while working on the Hill.

Submit news of hires and promotions on Capitol Hill to Hill Climbers here.

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