Wyverns in Washington - Kingswood Oxford

Alumni News

January 09, 2024

Wyverns in Washington

Sarah Gianni ’14


For most Washington, D.C., tourists, must-sees of the city include the United States Capitol, Supreme Court, and Library of Congress. Sarah Gianni ‘14 calls that her daily commute to work. Gianni passes all three landmarks on her 11-minute stroll to the Longworth House Office Building, home to 251 congressional suites, five large committee rooms, seven small committee rooms, and one large assembly room where the House Committee on Ways and Means convenes.


Over the last five years, Gianni has spent most of her time on the fifth floor of Longworth, working alongside United States Congressman John Larson. Larson, whom Gianni and her colleagues affectionately refer to as “JBL” and “The Boss,” has represented Connecticut’s First Congressional District for over two decades. 


“I formally met the Congressman during the summer of 2017,” Gianni said. She had been accepted to a two-month internship program in Larson’s D.C. office before beginning her senior year at Providence College. “Right off the bat, I felt so welcomed, which I think is something our office does a really great job of—making the interns feel included, giving them substantial projects to work on, and having them really feel part of the team.” 


After returning to Providence, Gianni kept in touch with Team Larson, eager to learn of any new openings for the following spring or summer. As luck would have it, a staff assistant job opened up. Gianni leveraged her past internship experience, applied, and was accepted to begin work in June 2018. She grew quickly in her role, leading U.S. Capitol tours, processing a variety of constituent requests, and assisting with legislative research. Six months later, she was promoted to scheduler and executive assistant. 


“While every day does look different, my main responsibilities are keeping track of the Congressman’s daily, weekly, and monthly schedule,” Gianni explained. “We have many constituent groups and lobbying groups reaching out to our office, so I manage all those requests for him to take meetings.” 


Coordinating travel logistics is another huge component of Gianni’s current role. She manages all of the Congressman’s flight reservations to and from D.C., expertly navigating any last-minute itinerary changes based on committee hearings, events, and the congressional voting schedule. Within the last year, Gianni has also taken over the scheduling for the district office in East Hartford, Conn. While overseeing logistics between the two offices can be tricky, she says it’s the positive feedback from constituents that makes it all worth it. 


“It is rewarding when the Congressman is able to get to every meeting, and folks are happy when they can take a photo or sit down with him,” she said. “These groups spend a lot of time planning their trips down to D.C., or when there are constituents who want to share their stories, it really means a lot to them to get in front of the Congressman. Being a helping hand in that is really something that I’ve loved.”


Aside from supporting constituents, Sarah says that it’s the relationships she’s built with Larson and her co-workers that have continued to shape both her personal and professional growth. She often refers to Team Larson as a family because the group has cultivated a workspace built on trust, respect, and collaboration. 


“I talk to JBL every single day, sometimes multiple times a day,” Sarah said. “Doing the scheduling for almost five years now, we’ve just built such a trust. He’s a fantastic boss, and I really, deeply, care about the relationship that we have.”


Ryan Albanesi ’17


The KO connection runs strongly throughout Team Larson’s D.C. office. Ryan Albanesi ‘17 sits about an arm’s length away from Gianni’s desk. Like Gianni, Albanesi began as a summer intern following the completion of his sophomore year at Tufts University. He spent part of June and July of 2019 in Larson’s office before transitioning to Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal’s office for the remainder of the summer. 


“I really enjoyed the culture of JBL’s office,” Albanesi said. “After that experience, and as I went on through college, I knew that returning to the Hill was something I was going to consider.” 


Ryan graduated from Tufts in May of 2021. The day after the commencement ceremony, he drove down to D.C. to begin his new role as Larson’s staff assistant, a job he had accepted just a few weeks prior. He said the timing was perfect—the Congressman and his team were looking to fill the open position as Albanesi was actively filling out job applications. 


Having worked alongside Albanesi during his summer internship, Gianni also flagged his resume. “I was so excited when I heard Ryan was applying to the office,” Sarah said. “I truly remember saying, “This guy is a star.” I always had a great impression of him from KO, and I knew how involved he was—active sports captain, senior prefect—I just knew he would be great.” 


Albanesi said Gianni wasn’t the only Wyvern advocating for him throughout his application process. He also credits Middle School history teacher Andy Krugman and former Upper School English Meg Kasprak for their unwavering support. 


“At KO, Mrs. Kasprak was a huge figure in my life and became almost like a second mother to me,” Albanesi explained. “It’s been so fascinating hearing from other people around me in professional environments who just don’t have these high school ties that are so strong. When I applied to Larson’s office, Mrs. Kasprak read my resume, read my cover letter, and spoke with me on the phone throughout the entire decision-making process.” 


Since formally joining the team in 2021, Albanesi has climbed the ladder from staff assistant, to legislative correspondent, to his current position as legislative assistant. In the office, he takes constituent meetings, writes memos and letters, and drafts co-sponsorship recommendations for specific bills. However, Albanesi is often pulled away from his desk in Longworth for his other core responsibility: daytime driving.


He says he begins most workdays well before 9 a.m., zipping over to Capitol Hill to pick up Congressman Larson for his morning meetings at the office. While most trips span only a few miles, others take him and Larson out of D.C. The pair can occasionally be seen hightailing it to Dulles International Airport in Virginia or BWI Airport in Baltimore to make a flight back to Connecticut.


“I’m so grateful that I’ve had the experience of being a driver for JBL,” Albanesi said. “The one-on-one face time fFacetime with him has been, by far, some of my favorite moments on the job. I’ve been able to develop such a close relationship with him, and so quickly too.”


When Albanesi and Larson aren’t chatting about upcoming events, votes, or happenings around the office on their drives, they’re listening to their collaborative Spotify playlist. Top artists include Frank Sinatra, Earth, Wind & Fire, Barbara Streisand, and Marvin Gaye. 


After wrapping up his outings with Larson, Albaesi says he always looks forward to returning to the team at the office. Even though the staff spends many late nights and early mornings together at Longworth, they choose to get together outside of work as well, which Albanesi said is a true testament to the authenticity of their relationships, both as co-workers and as friends. 


“Working with Sarah and our other co-workers in the office is honestly my favorite part,” Albanesi said. “There are some offices on The Hill that are not this way. Hill culture can be very competitive, cutthroat, and difficult. But in our office—the one that JBL has cultivated throughout the years—we’re all a team.”  


Cat Salazar ’12


Hop in a three-minute car ride from the Longworth House Office Building to the Hart Senate Office Building, and you’ll arrive at the office of United States Senator Chris Murphy. Senator Murphy has served as the junior U.S. senator from Connecticut since 2013—just one year after Catalina Salazar ‘12 graduated from Kingswood Oxford. It wouldn’t be until four years after her KO graduation that she would join Team Murphy as a press intern in the Washington office. 


Salazar says she caught the D.C. bug the year prior, in 2015, as a summer marketing & communications intern for the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. She then knew she wanted to return to the city after graduating from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa.


“The summer after my senior year, I landed a six-week internship with Chris Murphy’s office,” she explained. That opportunity would lead her to the House side, where she worked as a legislative intern for none other than Congressman Larson. As the final weeks of that internship drew near, a colleague from Larson’s team flagged a full-time job opening in U.S. Congressman Joe Courtney’s office. Salazar applied and became Courtney’s new communications assistant in October, 2017. She was promoted to digital press secretary two years later. 


“When I was first applying, the thing that the communications director said put me at the top of the list was my past experience on literary magazines,” Salazar said. At KO, she wrote for epic—the student-run literary and arts publication. At Franklin & Marshall, she worked for a magazine with a peculiarly similar title, Epilogue. “It’s kind of crazy when I think on that,” she said. “It’s the power of these extracurriculars and how they can have a meaningful impact later on in your life.” 


After more than five years with Courtney, Catalina returned to the Senate side in November, 2021 as Murphy’s new deputy digital director. She was promoted after five months to her present role of digital director. Her position is unique in that she is one of two staff members in the office who is split between the official Senate side and the political side. “I have my hands in both his re-election campaign and on the official side,” Salazar explained. 


She oversees the deputy digital director, secures media engagement opportunities for Murphy, and manages all of his digital communications platforms—including social media channels like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.


“Senator Murphy is really focused on video as one of his favorite ways of communicating issues that folks may not fully understand,” Salazar said. “An example that was really successful is when Russia first invaded Ukraine. For a lot of people, including folks like me, we don’t have a comprehensive understanding of the background behind all of this. So what we like to do in Senator Murphy’s digital program is make complicated issues like this more digestible—and we think visuals are a really great way to do that.”  


While serving as the deputy digital director at the time, Salazar supported the former digital director to create a short-form explainer video aimed at breaking down the key concepts involved in the Ukraine conflict. She says this type of content has continued to resonate strongly among Murphy’s target audience. The senator also uses social media to get his message out there, particularly around his main issues of foreign policy and gun violence prevention. 


“We recently did a social media live with Maxwell Frost,” Salazar said. “He’s the first Gen-Z member of Congress, and we talked about the impact of the anti-gun violence movement and the importance of advocates running for office.” 


Given the amount of content production required of Salazar in her role, perhaps one of the most impressive parts of her background is that she is almost entirely self-taught in videography and photography. The exception goes back to a photography class she took during her junior year at KO. “The basic skills I learned about shutter speed, aperture, etc., I still use that every single day,” she said. 


When she’s not editing videos or photos at her desk, Salazar says she stays alongside Murphy at a variety of events and speaking engagements in D.C. and Connecticut in hopes of capturing the perfect shot or clip. A favorite project has been accompanying him on his “Walk Across Connecticut”—an annual trek where he sets out to speak directly to his constituents about a range of local and national issues, while racking up a daily average of 15 to 20 miles on foot. 


“After four days of following him around and getting as much footage as possible I edited a video of the walk, and that was such a fun project,” Salazar said. “I absolutely love Connecticut and spending four days just walking across it, especially some of the most beautiful parts, and getting to put that into my work was perfect. I was like, “Oh yeah, this is what I want to do.”


Jenni Traver ’13


For Jenni Traver ‘13, the foray into politics didn’t begin on Capitol Hill. Rather, Traver got her start in the nonprofit world by working as an intern for the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) in January 2017. The organization represents and provides services for grain, feed, and related commercial businesses. A then-Depaw University senior, Traver spent a month with NGFA before heading to Greencastle, Ind. to finish her final semester. Upon returning to campus, Traver, inspired by her time in Washington, applied and accepted a position as a district office intern for former U.S. Congressman Luke Messer in his nearby Shelbyville, Ind. office.


After graduating from DePauw in May 2017, Traver made her way back to D.C., working as a legislative intern for Messer’s Washington office while applying for full-time positions. She landed a role as a scheduler for U.S. Congressman Darin LaHood in August 2017. He currently serves constituents of the 16th District of Illinois. It was during her time as a scheduler, Traver said, that she began to sharpen her focus on more specific career interests.


“I quickly realized that I liked the political aspect of it more than the policy aspect of it,” she explained. “I was more interested in the campaign aspect and those types of projects.” 


After about a year with LaHood’s team, Jenni began to explore opportunities outside of Capitol Hill that would continue to feed her passion for politics. In September 2018, she transitioned to a new role as political affairs coordinator for the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). 


“AGC represents basically all of the contractors across the country who are members of a trade association,” she said. “It comprises about 27,000 member companies.” 


After just over a year in that role, Traver was promoted to political affairs manager. While she says she thoroughly enjoyed the work and collaborating with her teammates, she learned that a former AGC colleague had recently joined the Portland Cement Association (PCA) to lead their government affairs division, and he wanted Jenni onboard. 



Jenni began her role as senior manager of government and political affairs for the PCA in August, 2020, early on in the COVID-19 pandemic. The non-profit promotes the use of cement and concrete, while conducting and sponsoring related field research and shaping cement manufacturing standards. Traver’s current role with the organization is director of political affairs and advocacy. 


“For PCA I handle our cement PAC—so, who we give money to, identifying new champions for us to give PAC money to, and then also raising money from our member companies,” she explained. “We largely deal with infrastructure, energy, and environmental issues.” 


Traver also manages PCA’s advocacy portfolio, a facet of the organization that primarily focuses on education about the cement industry and relevant issues. “There are only 92 cement plants across the country,” Traver said. “Most members of Congress don’t have them in their districts, and even the ones who do may have never visited one before. A lot of my work is trying to get more people out to visit a cement plant.” 


On those trips, Jenni will join congressional members and their staffs on plant and facility tours and provide a detailed briefing of what the Association is working on back in D.C. “Their favorite is when they actually get to see the quarry blow up,” she said. 

What many folks are surprised to learn she said is just how essential concrete is to construction and infrastructure projects. “You can’t build anything without cement,” Traver explained. “Cement is the primary ingredient in concrete. It’s equivalent to flour in a cake mix. And concrete is the second most utilized building material in the world after water.” 


But what’s the most popular talking point when working with congressional representatives? If you guessed workforce development, or PCA’s roadmap to carbon neutrality, Traver says guess again…  “I probably explain the difference between cement and concrete more than I talk about anything else on the Hill,” Traver said, laughing. “That’s probably the biggest thing.”

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