Steinberg Institute



The Steinberg Institute offers a robust internship program for qualified college students and volunteers. We offer internships quarterly, providing the chance to work directly with staff on policy priorities, communications and research projects. Generally, our internships fall into two categories: legislative interns who work with our government affairs director to help research and advance our legislative agenda; and communications interns who work with our communications director to write news releases, tell stories from the mental health community, and enhance our social media platforms.

The program requires a commitment of 10 to 12 weeks, and candidates must be willing to work at least 12 hours a week. This is an unpaid internship, but many of our students are able to earn academic credit through their schools. Beyond basic expectations such as professionalism and a strong work ethic, we are looking for candidates with superior writing and interpersonal skills; strong organizational and time management skills; and a commitment to public service.

For more information, please send your cover letter and resume to Jessica Bradley at You also can mail your packet to Steinberg Institute, 1130 K Street, Suite LL50, Sacramento, CA 95814.


Puneet Purewal
Legislative Intern, Spring 2018

Puneet Purewal joined the Steinberg Institute as a legislative intern for Spring 2018, excited to experience the frontlines of public policy work. She is a student at California State University, Sacramento, where her major is government studies.

Puneet’s parents emigrated from Punjab, India, in 1984 to the Central Valley town of Ceres, where they moved into a small home with aunts, uncles and other extended family members. Her parents worked long hours at a variety of jobs to help support the joint household. Eventually, her father became owner of a small store and her mother went to work for the post office. When Puneet was 6, they were able to buy their own home in the suburbs of Modesto.

Even as a child, Puneet recognized and appreciated her parents’ work ethic and the resilience of the immigrant experience. Her admiration for their accomplishments sparked a passion for politics.

“Growing up, I had always been more outspoken than my peers,” she said. “Once I got to college, I realized it would be wrong not to use my voice to represent the communities I belong to.”

Puneet’s interest in mental health also has roots in her family’s experience. She saw how the stigma surrounding mental illness in the South Asian community adversely affected a family member, who died by suicide after his own illness went untreated. She since has volunteered for nonprofit organizations that specialize in suicide prevention and providing services for people living homeless.

During her time with the Steinberg Institute, she has gained a better understanding of how mental health services are delivered in California counties, and the role of the 2004 Mental Health Services Act in expanding those services. After her graduation from Sacramento State, Puneet plans to pursue a master’s degree in public policy, so that she may one day be another leading voice advancing the cause of mental health care in California.

Athena Hineline
Communications Intern, Spring 2018 

Athena Hineline joined the Steinberg Institute as a communications intern for Spring 2018. She is a student at Sacramento City College and plans to transfer to Sacramento State in the fall to pursue a major in psychology.

Athena was raised in Sacramento by her loving mother, and she has first-hand experience with mental illness, having struggled with it since her early teens. Over the years, with appropriate medical care and the support of her family, she also has learned that her illness does not have to limit her.

Athena’s experience in the mental health care system inspired her to give back and work to make a difference for other young people learning to manage a brain illness. She has a deep appreciation for the legislative process, having learned from her mother, who works in the State Capitol. Her experience with the Steinberg Institute is providing a more detailed perspective on the role of public policy in improving mental health care in California, and how that policy is shaped.

Through her work at the institute and beyond, Athena hopes to raise awareness about mental health issues in the broader community. Ultimately, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in counseling, with the dream of becoming a therapist.


Catie Davis
Research Intern, Spring 2018 

Catie Davis joined the Steinberg Institute as a research intern for Spring 2018. She graduated in May 2017 from the University of Portland with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in neuroscience.

Catie has experienced the challenges of living with a developmental disorder. As a child she was misdiagnosed with ADHD and re-diagnosed at age 12 with Asperger’s syndrome, a condition characterized by an atypical style of communication that can make social interactions more challenging.

Catie recalls being bullied as a child and feeling isolated before she had the correct diagnosis. With the right diagnosis, she was able to understand why she sometimes perceived and communicated things differently than her peers – and to embrace those differences. She wants to pursue a career in health care policy to ensure other children growing up with conditions that are outside the norm get the early intervention and support they need.

“Hopefully, with the right diagnosis and help early on, they can avoid some of the suffering I went through,” she said.

Catie has been accepted to multiple graduate schools, and will begin studies for a master’s degree in public health in Fall 2018. She lives in the Sacramento area with her parents, younger brother, grandmother and three beloved cats.

Natalie Vergara
Legislative Intern, Fall 2017

Natalie Vergara joined the Steinberg Institute as a legislative intern for the Fall 2017 session. She graduated from Appalachian State University in North Carolina in December 2016, with a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies focusing on political science and renewable energy.

Natalie was raised in Dixon, CA, a rural community southwest of Sacramento. The daughter of Nicaraguan immigrants, she feels a deep responsibility to take advantage of the opportunities afforded her in the United States. She has taken on leadership roles throughout her school career, participating in her high school student government, and in college, joining AIESEC, a global network focused on developing youth leaders and promoting cross-cultural exchange.

​Natalie said her own family’s experience with mental health issues helped her understand the importance of pushing legislation to improve treatment and care. Her time with the institute, she said, has allowed her to gain more perspective on what it takes to create and implement effective public policy.

​Natalie also works as an intern at the office of state Sen. Jerry Hill, a San Mateo Democrat, where she helps with advocacy and research. She hopes to forge a career in legislative policy.


Jacob Mendelson
Legislative Intern, Summer 2017

Jacob Mendelson returned to the Steinberg Institute this summer for his second stint as a legislative intern. Jacob is enrolled at Sonoma State University, where he is double-majoring in criminology and sociology. He is the youngest of four children in a family active in Sacramento’s political and court systems.

Jacob long has been fascinated by the human mind, but finds himself increasingly interested in the intersection of mental health, law and society as whole. Through his criminology studies, he has explored theories about criminal behavior and rehabilitation. In his sociology classes, he has learned how past experiences can shape people’s identities and interactions. He hopes ultimately to combine his interests in a criminal law practice.

For Jacob, the institute has offered illuminating exposure to the research and advocacy that fuel creation of sound public policy. Over the past two summers, he has researched revenue and expenditures tied to the Mental Health Services Act, the 2004 legislation that generates nearly $2 billion a year for care and treatment in California. He also has drafted support letters, testified at legislative hearings and analyzed bill language.

“The amount of information a person can learn from working here in a month can be more than what they learn in a semester of college,” he said.

Frances Barbour
Legislative Intern, Summer 2017

Frances Barbour joined the Steinberg Institute as a legislative intern for Summer 2017. She is a recent graduate of St. Francis High School, and will be attending George Washington University in fall 2017, with plans to major in political philosophy and minor in psychology.

Frances’ interest in mental health policy stems, in part, from her many hours of volunteer service in Sacramento’s homeless community, where she saw first-hand the devastating impacts of untreated mental illness. She was compelled to learn more about how public policy initiatives could help change that dynamic. Her time with the institute has allowed Frances to gain a deeper understanding of the legislative process, as well as some of the strengths and shortcomings of California’s mental health care system.

As a college student, Frances will work to spread awareness about the need for a mental health care system as comprehensive and robust as our physical health care system, and will fight to end the stigma that still surrounds mental illness.

Brissa Nuñez
Legislative Intern, Spring 2017

Brissa Nuñez joined the Steinberg Institute as our legislative intern for Spring 2017, and worked to deepen her understanding of how public policy is put into action. Brissa is a senior at the University of California, Davis, where she is majoring in political science, with a minor in sociology. She is passionate about issues of social justice, equality and equity, making her time with the Steinberg Institute an invaluable experience.

Brissa hails from the small Central Valley town of Patterson, CA, where she was raised in a large, loving family. She is the second oldest of five siblings. Her interest in public service is rooted, in part, in the experiences of her eldest sister, who is a dedicated social worker for Merced County. Another strong motivator was her upbringing in Patterson, where she has worked in various public service roles. She began as a lifeguard at age 15, and moved up through the parks and recreation department, becoming a specialist in organizing teen programs.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree, Brissa plans to attend law school, with the aim of continuing to champion social justice issues. She described her time with the Steinberg Institute as enlightening, in terms of the outreach, collaboration and research that goes into crafting and enacting public policy. She also was inspired to be part of an office in which women hold key leadership roles. “It has been a true honor to work with such incredibly motivated and intellectual women,” she said.

Zihan Yu
Communications Intern, Spring 2017

Zihan Yu joined the Steinberg Institute as a communications intern for Spring 2017, with the aim of developing a deeper understanding of mental health policy and strengthening her communications skills. Zihan was enrolled for the 2016-17 academic year as an exchange student at the University of California, Davis, where she studied English literature.

Zihan was born in Suzhou, a small city in China where she lives with her parents, her brother and his wife. Her home school is Renmin University in Beijing, where she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Chinese literature. She was the first in her family to study abroad, and the first to visit the United States.

Working at the Steinberg Institute provided Zihan with a broader perspective on how public policy is crafted and the role it can play in improving people’s lives. In China, issues of mental health are still shrouded in stigma. She will return there with a greater awareness of the importance of establishing a strong and accessible system of mental health care, with an emphasis on early intervention. After graduation, she hopes to work in government service in China, helping to forge education policies that better the lives of students.

During her time with the institute, Zihan wrote a guest column for The Aggie, the student newspaper at UC Davis, about the need for more outreach to international students about campus mental health services. You can read her column here.