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Sara Lonardo caught the Congressional bug in high school.

The new communications director for Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) was selected for the U.S. Senate Youth Program during her senior year of high school, and it was during that week she spent on Capitol Hill hearing from Members of Congress that she realized she wanted to work on the Hill someday.

“Even though I didn’t necessarily agree with the positions of every official we were hearing [from], I was really struck by the passion all of them had, and the desire to want to do good and want to accomplish something,” Lonardo said of her time in the program. “And so I caught the bug.” 

So after graduating from high school, Lonardo headed to Wheaton College in Massachusetts, where she took a semester off to intern for Sen. John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004 and spent time interning for Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s (D-R.I.) campaign before she graduated in 2006. 

Lonardo also worked as a field organizer for Whitehouse’s campaign, and after he secured his seat in November 2006, she moved down to Washington, where she landed a job as a staff assistant at what was then called the House Education and Labor Committee. 

Since her first job as a staff assistant on Capitol Hill, Lonardo has moved up the ranks, becoming deputy press secretary and later press secretary for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, where she spent three years before her move to DeLauro’s office as communications director in April. 

Coming from the Senate side, Lonardo said she’s adjusting to the different rhythm of the House, adding that she’s enjoying working for DeLauro because of the smaller office environment and the increased access to the Member. 

Looking forward, Lonardo said she plans to stay on Capitol Hill. She said she learned from a mentor back in college not to make “grand five-year plans.”

“It’ll never work,” Lonardo said. “First of all, because life happens. And if you do [make five-year plans] and think you have to be on ‘this track,’ you’ll miss out on really good opportunities that come in between.”

Ultimately, Lonardo said, you make your own luck.

Particularly useful for her has been networking through organizations such as the Women’s Congressional Staff Association, a bipartisan group for which she serves as co-chairwoman of the professional development committee. 

“I think a lot of people who don’t work on the Hill or who don’t work in D.C. have this idea that you have to have some sort of crazy connections to get here and it’s all about who you know,” Lonardo said. “That helps, yeah, but neither of my parents were involved in this kind of thing. I got my start just by applying to stuff where I could, joining groups, going to every sort of meeting I could in college and working my way up that way, volunteering for everything. You make your own possibilities.”

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